There has been a huge ruckus in the news this week about FIFA. As soon as I heard this news breaking it wasn't really a shock about corruption at FIFA but was a shock was who instigated all of this and brought it to a head.
FIFA, if you don't know is the governing body for International football and has as the head honcho a guy called Sepp Blatter. Sepp Blatter has been the head honcho at FIFA for 17 years I think and in that time he has overseen a major overhaul of things like the World Cup into a commercial advertising extravaganza with millions and millions and perhaps billions of dollars exchanging hands in advertising revenue.
As a football fan, and I have been a football fan and going to football games since I was knee high to a grasshopper. The first game I remember was when I was 5 or 6 in my home country Scotland watching my local team - Dundee United against Glasgow Celtic. I do remember we won either 3-1 or 3-2 that day which to be honest was a huge upset in Scottish football.
My home city, Dundee, is very unique in footballing terms. WE have two football stadiums around a goalkick away from each other - about 200 yards - the closest professional grounds in World Football I think. In addition, I remember going to Dundee United one week and the following week being taken to our rivals game - Dundee FC. This was very common at that time to visit each others ground every weekend and certainly unique in Scottish football.
My team has great success in the decade from 1979, winning our first major honours, having players play for the international team and getting to the semi final of the European Champions Cup - now called the Champions League and getting to the Final of the UEFA Cup defeating the likes for Barcelona home and away. We really were a great team at that time and in fact that team could have played anyone and game them a really good game. We were a home grown team, full of Scottish players, full of players who dreamed of playing professional football and running out of the tunnel to the roar of fans. Simply for the joy of the game. It is a beautiful feeling thinking back.
Back then in the late 80s and early 90s if you were good enough then you made the grade - in terms of the team. If the team was good enough they progressed in the European Cup competitions.
The Money Men arrive into football
Then something happened. Money men came into football. Now money is no bad thing on the face of it BUT obscene and greedy money making people saw an opening in football. The big attendances, the captive audiences, the loyalty to follow your team. Satellite television soon took off and of course they had to show something on the telly as all the old movies were wearing a bit thin.
The money men running the big clubs decided they were going to break away from UEFA and set up their own organisation, if UEFA did not listen to them and do what they were told. Of course, they saw the gap as the "normal" way clubs were making money was through player transfers - if teams nurtured their own players then sold them on for a profit it was great work. Teams bought and sold players to progress and survive. This natural revenue stream was more or less taken away with the advent of the Bosman Ruling which stated players were allowed freedom of contract at the end of their contract to a club.
On a personal level - Bosman was a good thing. For the game and for the teams it had a devastating effect for most clubs - and indeed for the majority of middle and lower end players.
UEFA bowed down to the big European clubs and reinvented the Champions league and other European competitions. With it there was an obscene amount of money thrown into from major corporations such as VISA, MASTERCARD, MCDONALDS, COCA COLA, etc etc. Clubs clambered to be part of this and to receive a part of the financial pie that was going.
The long and the short of it was that the biggest supported clubs spent heavily and were given money by their "sugar daddies" to ENSURE they received a part of the new financial pie. The big 6 countries in Europe - Spain, Italy, France, England, Germany all ensure that their teams from their leagues got in on the act. Instead of European leagues having fairly and equal distribution of clubs into Europe - and the Champions league or European Cup - was filled with Champions from the European leagues - they were then filled with 5 or 6 teams from each of the big countries with the smaller countries having to plead and play extra games to even get a sniff of the prestige of playing as Champions of their country.
Football - the beautiful game - had become a very unbalanced, greedy, fear ridden sport.
Unbalanced because the top 3 or 4 teams from each league, and in some cases 1 or 2, will win their respective European leagues. In effect each league has two leagues within it. For the winners and runners up and for the best of the rest - i.e who will finish 3 will be crowned the best of the rest. It is very clear that in my country, not many people care about who wins the league as they know 100% it is impossible for their club to win it over a 7 or 8 month period. The only hope is through the domestic trophies.
Greedy - in that clubs are fleecing their fans. They know they have a captive audience and I see in he English leagues tickets for games at going for over 100 pounds. Restricted view seat - where you can not see part of the game are still selling at ridiculous prices. Fans generally know they are being fleeced but football is a loyalty game for fans and the majority will see it as disloyal to stop supporting their club - obviously this is no longer the case as a lot of the big clubs are no longer - "community clubs".
Fear Ridden - Owners do not want their club to be relegated. They will lose millions of pounds or dollars or Euros from being relegated from the top tier of their countries leagues. Each league will have maybe between 4 and 8 teams who could be relegated in any one season. In a league of 20 that is 40% of the teams will play through fear of being relegated and the loss of millions of pounds. There are teams and managers and players who shift amongst these bottom clubs fighting relation each year. That s no way to play the game.
Back to Europe, 3 or 4 of the leagues runners up with be fighting to get into the misnomer of a competition the Champions league and the riches that brings. If you are lucky, you will get straight into the league section. If you are lucky even further you will get into the play off games and get parachuted into the UEFA league.
Middle and lower clubs, together with bread and butter fans have been forgotten
In a nutshell European govern bodies have forgotten the middle clubs. They have forgotten the fans at these clubs.
So onto FIFA, after that long ramble. In any situation where there are corporate interests - there will always be corruption, backhanders and so on. You can call it whatever you wsih and dress it up how you please - incentive payments or whatever - the fact of the matter is there is a huge amount of money swapping hands - factor in the big multi nationals are mentioned above and then you begin to add extra "0"'s onto the money changing hands.
Make no mistake - no matter what they say and how they come across - McDonalds, Coca Cola, Budweiser, Visa, Mastercard - all these big, big multi nationals are in it to make money. That is their sole aim. Nothing more and nothing less. No matter how they say they want to change the world and are working for world peace - they want to make money at ALL costs.
On a side note - isn't it amazing that the companies mentioned above are the companies that are probably the worst for your health and your wealth - think about that!
UEFA and the TV companies want to make the European club games the biggest in the world - bigger than the national games and are doing so at the expense of the middle clubs and lower clubs. FIFA have sold out the national games buy making world cups sparkly, glittzy and as far removed from the man in the street as possible. A striking fact is that when I was younger - it was a dream to play in the world cup and as kids we dreamt about it - be a national hero back home after scoring the in the world cup final.
I spoke with some young kids playing football recently and none - repeat none of them spoke about world cups. It was all English Premiership, Barcelona, Real Madrid, etc.
So why have FIFA got into trouble now? Pure and simply because of all the money - the biggest corporation on the planet - the United States of America - wasn't getting enough of the financial pie. They saw the money going to the Middle East and Russia and decided it was time to shoot their bullets. No more and no less. This is exactly what has happened If they were bothered about corruption, they would have done something about the World Cup in Brazil. They would investigate the deaths of employees associated with the World Cup in Qatar.
Greed and not getting their share of the pie is the sole reason why there is this news at the moment. UEFA and FIFA have both sold the soul of football to the corporate world and the wolves are currently ripping it to shreds.
Here is Russell Brands Trews from the other day talking about the same thing: