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FIFA Faces Uncertain Future

Football's world governing body postponed the bidding process for the 2026 football World Cup after the United States Justice Department issued corruption and bribery charges last month against nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives. Swift world reaction to the scandal included talk not only about FIFA’s alleged misdeeds, but the U.S. role in exposing them.

When the US criminally indicted some top FIFA executives, it was welcomed by many in Europe and around the world, according to British football writer Keir Radnedge, who spoke via Skype.

“For most people certainly, if you look at U.K. media over the last five, seven years, this has been a long time in coming," he said. "There’s been a feeling of frustration that things haven’t worked quicker and people haven’t been caught out sooner, but parts of the problem, of course, lay with FIFA’s own very, very lax governance systems.”

The corruption scandal led to the resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, less than a week after he had won reelection.

David Larkin is a U.S. sports lawyer. He said FIFA’s operations have not been transparent.

“It’s important to kind of structure this debate around what is FIFA?" he said. "I would argue that it’s basically 25 people, plus or minus people co-opted onto it, that basically operate in secret and that have no accountability.”

The indictments unveiled last month paint a picture of corruption and bribery at the Swiss-based organization that runs the World Cup and other major tournaments.

David Francis, a writer at Foreign Policy magazine, described his view of the objectives of the U.S. investigation.

“You get the ‘small fish,’ you get the small fish to talk, and it gives you the bigger fish, and that’s what we saw over the last couple of weeks," he said. "Now what really prompted the U.S.? I highly doubted that it was going after the World Cup, because it probably isn’t going to get it in 2022 no matter what happens.”

Though some might disagree, David Larkin said until now FIFA's public image was one of purity and autonomy, but it's an image shattered by the U.S. corruption charges.

Radnedge, though, pointed out that FIFA still has hundreds of well-meaning employees using football for youth development, health and education.

“The work they do is tainted by these guys who have this money-making clique at the top,” he said.

The host for the 2026 World Cup was to be chosen by FIFA members during its 2017 Congress in Malaysia. But FIFA said it would delay that decision.

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