Soccer is big. It’s bigger than baseball. It’s bigger than basketball. It’s bigger than American football.
Soccer is so big, it’s bigger than the United Nations (UN). The UN has 193 Member States. But the international soccer association—the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)—has 209 members.
The president of FIFA is one Joseph Blatter. He’s been called the most powerful man in sports (“FIFA officials arrested over corruption charges, face U.S. extradition”, ESPN and E:60 video, May 27, 2015). He appears to be a very nice man (ibid). But he’s also a man who, according to some, rules over a culture of corruption (ibid).
On May 29, 2015, Mr Blatter faces an election vote during a FIFA Congress meeting which has gathered in Zurich, Switzerland. He wants to be re-elected President.
He’s got some problems. First, On May 27, 2015, Swiss authorities arrested six senior FIFA officials on charges of corruption. The good news is, Mr Blatter wasn’t one of them (“Update: Sepp Blatter Not Among Arrested FIFA Officials”, Arutz Sheva, May 27, 2015). The bad news is, the US apparently wants all those arrested to be extradited to the US because, it’s alleged, their crimes were carried out in the US--using US banks (ESPN, ibid).
The US can be aggressive about these types of crimes. If you’re going to get arrested for these crimes, I’d say one of the last places you’d want to be shipped off to for prosecution would be the US. At last report, the US wants these guys.
The charges include wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering (ESPN, ibid). In addition, Swiss officials have announced other charges against these officials, including the exchange of bribes adding up to $100 million (ibid). These bribes were used to affect FIFA actions (ESPN, ibid).
Hours after those arrests, Swiss officials opened criminal “proceedings” into how the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournament choices (Russia and Qatar) were made (Graham Dunbar, “Swiss open criminal proceedings in 2018, '22 World Cup votes”, Associated Press, May 27, 2015).
The BBC has reported that FIFA headquarters in Zurich “have been raided” (“Fifa corruption probe: Officials arrested in Zurich”, May 27, 2015).
The second problem Mr Blatter has is that the ‘Palestinian’ Football (soccer) Association (PFA) has demanded that Israel’s soccer association (IFA) be expelled from FIFA. The charge is that Israel somehow ‘discriminates’ against ‘Palestinian’ players and restricts their free travel (Eldad Benari, “FIFA President Asks Israel to Make Concession in Dispute with PA”, Arutz Sheva, May 16, 2015).
Mr Blatter has already been quoted as saying that the only way a FIFA member can be expelled is for violations of FIFA rules—and Israel hasn’t violated any such rules (David Gerstman, “The Palestinians Continue Their War Against Israel in Soccer”, Legal Insurrection, May 22, 2015).
Mr Blatter has asked the head of the PFA, Jibril Rajoub, to withdraw his request. Rajoub has, so far, said no.
Rajoub has been insistent (remember this point). For example, he’s said he won’t drop the request (Eldad Benari, “Rajoub: We Won't Drop Bid to Have Israel Suspended from FIFA”, Arutz Sheva, May 21, 2015). He’s said he ““will not withdraw the motion and will not accept any compromise and any side deals” (Eldad Benari, “PA's Rajoub Rules Out Compromise on Israel Bid at FIFA”, Arutz Sheva, May 26, 2015).
Mr Blatter has been trying to resolve this demand. He doesn’t know if he can.
The third problem Mr Blatter faces comes from the pro-Israel NGO Shurat HaDin. Shurat HaDin has a reputation. It takes terrorist organizations to court—and wins. No one else in the world has done that.
It’s won billions in judgment against Iran for terror acts committed against Jews. This year, it won $400 million against the Palestinian Authority for acts of terror. It’s not a frivolous organization. It carries a very, very big stick.
On May 25, 2015, Shurat HaDin submitted to FIFA a formal petition “to expel the President of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), senior PA official Jibril Rajoub” (Ari Soffer, “Israeli NGO Seeks Expulsion of PA Official from FIFA”, Arutz Sheva, May 26, 2015). This wasn’t just a counter-demand. It packed a punch.
Unlike Rajoub, who simply demanded Israel be expelled because of ‘discrimination’, Shurat HaDin based its petition on what it calls “gross violations of FIFA's code of conduct, including advocating the killing of Israeli civilians living in Judea and Samaria and [advocating] the use of nuclear weapons against the State of Israel” (ibid).
It seems that, while Israel hasn’t violated FIFA rules, the PFA President might have. Shurat HaDin alleges that Rajoub’s public comments about Israel “constitute grave breaches of his obligation to comply with FIFA's statutes and rules prohibiting discrimination, intimidation and violence against individuals and groups” (ibid). Shurat HaDin also alleged that Rajoub “promoted, supervised and glorified a number of attacks by Fatah and by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades against Israel…Rajoub has said that the armed conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist organizations should be fought by all means, and…if we had nuclear weapons, we’d be using them" (ibid).
All Mr Blatter wants to do is get re-elected. But now, some of his top officials are under arrest for, among other things, accepting bribes. If bribes are important ($100 million) to FIFA decision-making, could they be playing a role in the scheduled May 29th vote to expel Israel from FIFA? Is that why Rajoub so adamantly refuses to compromise on his demand? He knows something the rest of us don’t?
Swiss authorities have begun to arrest FIFA officials for corruption and bribery. Could a successful vote to expel Israel raise eyebrows? If Israel were expelled, might US and Swiss authorities suspect that bribery was involved to buy the needed votes? Would these authorities want to look at Members’ electronic data and documents posted during the weeks leading up to that vote? Are FIFA Members clean enough to withstand prying eyes?
Of course, this is speculation. But then, how deep and wide does FIFA corruption run? Could it affect a FIFA vote to expel Israel?
Will there actually be a vote against Israel? No one knows. But the script you’re looking at so far approaches the unbelievable: in a single two-day news cycle we’ve seen ‘Palestinians’ wage uncompromising lawfare to get its hated enemy Israel expelled from the world’s largest Sports Federation; major corruption arrests shatter the peace of soccer’s most important conference; and a heavy-weight pro-Israel anti-terror legal powerhouse demands that the ‘Palestinian’ trouble-maker be the one to be expelled from the Federation, not Israel.
Want to know where all this is going? Stay tuned.