Geneva, Switzerland. 30 May. "For the laws of nature (as justice, equity, modesty, mercy, and in sum, doing to others as we would be done to) of themselves without the terror of some power, to cause them to be observed are contrary to our natural passions that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge and the like". "Leviathan" Thomas Hobbes.
Lac Leman is shiningly blue this morning, shimmering in the early summer sun with the reflection of light and land that is the allure of this beautiful place. The massif of Mont Blanc is clear in the distance, recumbent like some enormous statue of Abraham Lincoln contemplating the very high, and the very low politics of life. I am back in Switzerland, the country of mountains, and Geneva, the city of peace and the seat of international organisations. This is a home to me. Indeed, I have spent much of my life in this town over the years having worked with the UN, World Health Organisation, and for a short time with the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne. Switzerland, more precisely Zurich, is also the lair of FIFA, denizen of the dark underworld of elite corruption of which the governing body of world football is master. The gravy train of gravy trains that seems to run to a precise timetable of patronage, like some dark parody of the superb Swiss railway system that serves it and the rest of this meticulous country. However, FIFA is but an extreme example of an extreme system. So, why are international organisations so prone to corruption?
The wrong people in the wrong places: There are many very good people who work for organisations such as FIFA, brim full of belief in 'the mission' and passionately determined to make the world a better place. However, too often these good people are out in 'the field' doing the right thing far from the broking of power at which their dark masters excel. Indeed, at the heights of such organisations one too often finds the politicians and self-serving elite attracted more by the prestige, the status and of course the money in which many international elites are mired than any love for any game.
The wrong people with the wrong beliefs: From my own experience I have seen how so often 'representatives' or 'delegates', or whatever they are called, are the wrong people from the wrong places with the wrong beliefs. Often the sons and daughters of national elites (Blatter's daughter works for him), invariably the schemers (as Sepp Blatter once admitted himself to be), and inevitably the power-brokers, the strong men (normally men) who have scrambled to the top of the greasy pole and believe that private jets, police escorts, and uber-hotels are but the fruits of conquest.
A culture that promotes wrong-doing: Like all uber-elites the members thereof are very good at convincing themselves that the exchange of gifts, in its many mercurial and pecuniary forms, is not corruption at all but 'mere tokens of respect. They except such largesse not for themselves, you must understand, but on behalf of their 'people'. It is a culture reinforced and perpetuated by an elite adept at speaking 'of the people', but from a height so far distant they might well be sitting atop Mont Blanc, or is that Mont Mammon? Olympians of deceit and self-deceit reinforced by a 'we are all in this together' culture that reinforces wrong-doing.
A system that fails the majority: Ultimately, it is the 'system' that permits the FIFAs of this world to drive the hubris-horsed, guilt-edged, cash-stuffed coach and horses through propriety. The simple truth is that there is no real governance of such organisations and thus no real oversight or accountability. The FIFAs exist in a form of anarchy in which the only 'law' is that of the elite jungle - take what you can, while you can, when you can...in the name of the game/people (delete as appropriate).
The FIFAs of this world have become Saville Row suited 'playerds' adept at dribbling around propriety into the open but hidden goal of personal greed. Audit commissions are set up that do not audit. Ethics committees are set up that are unethical. 'Transparency' is talked of but hidden behind a raft of lawyer-led secrecy, often in the name of 'protecting' commercial and organisational 'rights', when in fact it is merely to keep we the paying peasantry at far distance from the gilded elite and their gilded lifestyles.
Masked in the language of selflessness FIFA this week was super-selfishness at its very worst. Americans (well done Yanks!) and the Swiss tried this week to provide at least some form of 'good governance' by indicting several of Blatter's lieutenants. And yet, Blatter, as yet unindicted, was re-elected as FIFA President just two days later demonstrating yet again just how embedded self-interest is at the heart of elite internationaldom.
Why does such vice continue? Why is the cash of millions of taxpayers, supporters, customers siphoned off by such a self-serving few? The reaction of Russia's President Putin was indicative (but by no means exclusive). The US indictments, he said, were sour grapes for losing the 2022 World Cup bid, yet another example of an America that wants to rule the world. THAT, is the real reason that the corrupt elites of internationaldom are able to impose such a burden of false entitlement, such a heavy tax of hubris, on the rest of us. The states and the respective institutions in those states responsible for imposing some level off propriety on the elite are more concerned with fighting each other than ensuring proper behaviour. Oversight and accountability exists there none.
There are many Blatters at rarified levels of internationaldom, consummate in the dark arts of survival politics, never 'responsible' for the corruption rampant around them, but at the very least utterly complicit by association and maintained in power by an ironclad system of patronage and partiality. And, there will always be Blatters as long as there is no power, no Leviathan, to impose order above the state of nature in which the Blatters and their cohorts prosper.
The very first football club in the world Sheffield F.C. was formed in my home town in England in 1857. It was a noble idea that led in time to what became called 'the beautiful game'. It is a game that no longer has anything to do with FIFA. FIFA instead has mastered the oldest and ugliest game of all - vice, hubris and deceit. It is time for Europeans and North Americans and all men and women of goodwill to play a different game and simply walk away from FIFA.