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The FIFA Sting Is Soccer Lovers’ Fault


Stop me if you’ve heard this old saw before: Giant organization grows richer and more powerful. At the same time, this bureaucracy becomes less effective, more corrupt, and less interested in serving the people it claims to serve. Everyone loses hope of any actual change, despite promises to the contrary. None of those involved are likely to endure the sort of punishment normal citizens would for the same crimes.

At any given time, I could be speaking of the federal government, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the International Olympic Committee, the United Nations, some charities, the National Football League, or even government. Well, today is FIFA’s day in the sun.

If you haven’t heard yet, approximately 12,000 officials of the international soccer organization were arrested or shot this morning in a corruption probe orchestrated by the Swiss, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jim Gordon, and McGruff the Crime Dog.

I could bore you with the history of corruption in FIFA. But I don’t want to write that much. You can watch this instead. Or this. Or just Google it. It’s a big bureaucracy. Just make up something and it’s probably at least half-true.

FIFA Has All the Power We Give It

I could turn this into a diatribe about how awful FIFA is, but it’s really not about FIFA. FIFA (and every other bureaucracy) will get away with as much as we allow. And we allow a lot. This is really about us. The citizen. The consumer. Once again, we’re unwilling to do what it takes to enact meaningful change. That means actually doing something that hurts us.

FIFA gives the World Cup to Russia and Qatar. We whinge and moan. But we’ll watch. The NFL poorly handles cheating and domestic abuse? We whinge and moan. Doesn’t make a bit of difference. College athletes get away with all manner of misdeeds. The NCAA and the schools themselves do little. The NCAA’s amateur rules are a joke. We whinge and moan. Doesn’t matter. We give them our eyeballs and our dollars. We claim to be tired of “politics as usual.” Politicians claim to be tired of “politics as usual.” And nothing changes. We keep electing politicians as usual.

I think part of the reason is that we haven’t lost God, we’ve simply replaced him. I say this as a Birmingham resident who sees college football replace God every fall. We fill our God-shaped void with entertainment and politics. We stick with them through thick and thin, enacting change only during the most Job-like injustices. But that’s for another piece by a more talented writer or maybe the Bible.

It’s Soccer Lovers’ Fault this Is Political

FIFA’s a perfect case here. We as a nation or the soccer world as a whole could decide to not watch these World Cups. Do you understand how powerful that threat is? Yet, instead of starving the beast by actually doing something, we’ve (once again) relied on government to fix our problem. Ugh, you’ve made me turn this into a political thing! You did this!

Why do we have to read about the feds using Capone-esque tactics to nab these guys? Why don’t we see stories where Roger Goodell or Sepp Blatter get ousted “due to a precipitous drop in television ratings, likely due to the controversy surrounding…” Would that be so bad? For one year, one season, one cycle, just stop watching? Do you realize how far-reaching that small bit of action would be?

If these bureaucrats knew that we were willing to completely avoid their product, they would be on such a hair trigger for corruption and proper governance that these groups would clean themselves up. To quote Milton Friedman, “The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.” Make anything but the right thing untenable for these guys.