A total of 14 FIFA officials were arrested overnight in a bust that allegedly revealed over $150 million in bribes and corruption for soccer’s governing body.
The 14 officials, including three sports marketing officials, were charged by the Department of Justice for “foster[ing] a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world,” FBI Director James Comey said.
The investigation began after the selection of the next two World Cup hosts. Russia will host in 2018 followed by Qatar in 2022. The United States finished as the runner-up to host the 2022 tournament.
“In short, these individuals, through these organizations, engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a press conference in New York.
She said the alleged charges date back to 1991 and also played a role in the selection of South Africa as the 2010 World Cup host.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” Lynch said in a DOJ statement. “It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter was not charged or arrested. Blatter is seeking a fifth term as president. He’s served as president for the last 17 years.
It is believed that corruption could be why the U.S. lost out to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. Qatar reaches temperatures of over 120 degrees and the difficulty in building the necessary resources to host the event, which made it a controversial selection at the time.