Good morning, Quartz readers!
How did we let a bunch of geezers swindle global soccer for this long?
Of the 14 top soccer officials and businessmen arrested on FIFA-related corruption charges this week, all but five were over the age 60. But the geezer-in-chief, 79-year-old FIFA president Sepp Blatter, has not been indicted; on Friday, he was re-installed as the leader of world soccer for the fifth time. In a rambling speech just before his re-election, Blatter noted, correctly, that the World Cup is the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Though all but one of the people pulled from their Zurich hotel rooms by Swiss police were from outside the US, they were detained on behalf of the US attorney general, because bribe money allegedly flowed through the American financial system.
The length of America’s legal arms tends to upset global opinion—especially in Europe, where banks prefer lower capital requirements and a freer hand with rogue nations. But, in this case, hatred of FIFA(paywall) largely won out over distaste for American power-mongering—except, not surprisingly, from Russia’s Vladimir Putin and FIFA sponsor Gazprom. It may yet go down as the US’s best foreign policy move in years.
But while the US may end the reign of this particular group of geezers, don’t count on the game to change. Blatter’s long-serving predecessor was brought down by a very similar scandal involving sports marketing firms, kickbacks, and tournament rights.
So maybe we should blame capitalism? It’s the commercialization of the World Cup—with the idea of covering the costs, paying the players, and building the stadiums—that created such opportunities for the abuse of power. But there’s got to be a way to have an idealistic global tournament of sport that doesn’t require either massive government funding or massive corruption.
Let’s ask the people at the Olympics. They must… ah. Well, back to the drawing board.—Tim Fernholz
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