Skip to content
Subscriber Only

The FIFA Follies

Can President Blatter survive a rising tide of accusations?

The charges against Joseph S. Blatter just keep piling up. The 66-year-old Swiss who heads the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, the organization that oversees World Cup soccer, stands accused of nepotism, bribery, and cooking the books--on top of plain old mismanagement. The whistle-blower is Blatter's countryman and erstwhile ally, FIFA General Secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen, who claims the financial health of the Zurich organization is in jeopardy thanks to his boss's shenanigans. "FIFA is in bad shape," warned Zen-Ruffinen in a May 3 report to FIFA's executive committee.

Blatter, who was not available for comment, has strenuously denied any wrongdoing (table). More important, the cries against Blatter are being drowned out by all the hullabaloo of the 2002 World Cup championship in Japan and Korea, which gets under way on May 31. The likes of Adidas-Salomon and Anheuser-Busch Cos. have shelled out millions for the privilege of emblazoning their logos on everything from stadiums to team jerseys. But corporate sponsors seem unfazed by the allegations. The grand pooh-bahs of the soccer world don't seem too bothered, either. In fact, Blatter stands a good chance of being reelected to a second four-year term when representatives from the world's soccer-loving nations descend on Seoul at the end of this month. "There is a lot of money for everyone involved," says one blasé executive for a company that has done business with FIFA. "Where there is a lot of money, there is usually some corruption."