Tuesday’s shocking news sparked outrage throughout the footballing fraternity with some figures even likening Fifa to the mafia
The football world was rocked on Tuesday when Swiss police swooped to arrest and detain, pending extradition to the United States, seven football officials on federal corruption charges related to Fifa.
An international law enforcement collaboration resulted in morning raids at the Hotel Bauer au Lac in Zurich where officials were staying ahead of the 65th Fifa congress which will decide the Fifa presidency on Friday.
The arrests, together with further news that Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has opened criminal proceedings relating to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, led to outrage throughout the footballing fraternity.
The controversy was only further exacerbated when world football’s governing body’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs Walter de Grogorio addressed the press. He insisted that not only was it FIFA who initiated the proceedings and was the damaged party, but that there would be no re-vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and no postponed re-election of the Fifa presidency.
HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who is challenging Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency, was one of the first to react to the news.
“Today is a sad day for football,“ he lamented in a press release.
‘A sad day’ | Prince Ali (right) is set to take on Blatter for Fifa presidency on Friday
A statement from Europe’s governing body Uefa read: “Uefa is astonished and saddened by the events which have taken place earlier today in Zurich and is now waiting for additional information.
“An informal meeting of the Uefa Executive Committee will take place this afternoon in Warsaw prior to the Uefa Europa League final.”
The Chairman of the English Football Association Greg Dyke was also deeply disheartened: “We should stress this morning’s developments are very serious for FIFA and its current leadership.
“As one of the associations who nominated Prince Ali it will not surprise you to learn that if the election for president goes ahead The FA will be voting for him. However, there must be a question mark over whether the election should take place in these circumstances.
“Clearly things are changing very quickly and our delegation to the Fifa congress in Zurich, which I am leading, will discuss the position and what we should do about it with our colleagues in Uefa when we meet tomorrow [Thursday] morning.”
Mafia | Delaney said the Fifa raids are like something from a gangster film
Football Association of Ireland CEO John Delaney was absolutely scathing in his criticism of Fifa.
“It seems like something out of a mafia movie,” he told RTE Radio One.
“Nothing would surprise me with Fifa, that’s the sad thing. When you wake up this morning and hear those events, it’s shocking and very saddening.
“The awards of World Cups are always covert and then there are independent reports that we don’t get to see. We’re told we’d get redacted versions and we don’t get those.
“There is always controversy around Fifa and it’s governance and the one person who has always been at the head of that is Sepp Blatter and he has to take some responsibility for that and that’s why I said yesterday that we wouldn’t be voting for him.”
England legend and BBC presenter Gary Lineker was even more damning of the governing body and Blatter.
“There can’t be a more corrupt, deplorable organisation on earth than Fifa. The house of cards is falling. Time for change!,” he tweeted.
“If Blatter had even a crumb of dignity remaining, he’d walk away now, creep back to his lair, sit in his armchair and stroke his cat.”
If Blatter had even a crumb of dignity remaining, he’d walk away now, creep back to his lair, sit in his armchair and stroke his cat.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) May 27, 2015
The president of France’s LFP Frederic Thiriez told Europe 1 that he was “deeply shocked and saddened at how these arrests would send out a terrible image of football.”
As the political world attempted to make sense of the scandal, Germany’s justice minister Heiko Maas told Bild: “The fans have a right to demand that light will be shed on these events thoroughly. Corruption must not have any space in football.”
Former DFB president Theo Zwanziger told Rheinische Post: “It’s a big cesspool. The problem won’t be solved if Sepp Blatter gives up the presidency. The problem is Fifa’s system. There are too many people who enrich themselves.”
Even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger commented on the scandal in his pre-FA Cup final press conference.
“Fifa? It’s embarrassing. You wonder what the FBI is doing in there,” he remarked before stressing that he didn’t wish to add any more until the “whole inquiry is finished.”