FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s defence will be familiar with every one who follows Indian cricket - it is right out of former BCCI president N Srinivasan’s playbook.
When the Supreme Court told Srinivasan to step aside as board president while hearing the IPL betting and fixing case, Srinivasan kept insisting that he had not been charged with anything and therefore should be able to stay on the throne.
Blatter’s defence is no different. “The president is not involved,” FIFA spokesperson Walter De Gregorio said on Wednesday. “Of course he is the head of FIFA, but he is not involved so how can you say he has to step down?”
It doesn't matter that under Blatter, FIFA has been consistently and rampantly corrupt. What matters it that the trail of corruption does not lead to his door – at least not yet.
Both the BCCI and FIFA share a similar philosophy as well. They have stridently maintained they are private bodies that operate within their own rules and guidelines and are not subject to outside interference. They are the Lords and Masters of their universe.
Blatter and Srinivasan controlled their respective organizations by doling out favours and withholding rewards for friends and foes alike. Under Srinivasan, state associations began receiving much more money than before. Under Blatter, football federations in Asia, the Americas and Africa found themselves the beneficiaries of his largesse. No wonder the Asian Football Confederation gave Blatter its vote of confidence on Thursday.
It is enough to make you wonder whether somewhere, hidden from view like Hogwarts, there is a special school for those who wish to rule the world of sport. There students are trained in the dark arts of politicking and bribery, with special attention paid to those with a messiah complex and a penchant for egomania.
After all, at a recent CONCACAF meeting, Blatter was compared to Jesus Christ, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela for the way he has run football. And former India cricketer Farokh Engineer called Srinivasan one of the best Board presidents ever.
The US Justice Department investigation has now given the lie to that world view, just as the Indian Supreme Court let the BCCI know it cannot operate as an impenetrable black hole anymore.
However, that’s where the two cases start to diverge. The nine FIFA officials who have been indicted face the very real threat of jail time. They face “maximum terms of incarceration of 20 years for the RICO conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice charges.”
When it comes to the BCCI, the only person who has lost anything is Srinivasan, who was only ousted as BCCI president. He continues to head the International Cricket Council and run world cricket.
It is also not clear that the three cricketers who were arrested for alleged spot-fixing in the 2013 IPL will serve any jail time either. The Delhi court hearing the case questioned the police’s match fixing theory, saying there was prima facie no evidence that showed the matches were fixed by the accused i.e. S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankit Chavan.
Whereas the DOJ can swoop in and arrest FIFA officials without anyone being aware of it, in India authorities can’t even prosecute when the investigating authority has found 23 examples of fraud, as in the cause of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office and the Delhi & District Cricket Association.
“The SFIO report, a copy of which is in the possession of Outlook, shows that no effort was made to cover up the irregularities. The only possible explanation is that the DDCA was confident of political patronage and consequent immunity from investigation and prosecution. Of course, no further action was initiated on the damning report,” reported the Outlook.
As we all know, in India, sports associations are either run by politicians or benefit from political patronage. Arun Jaitley, India’s Finance Minister, was the chief patron of DDCA, having been president for over a decade before that, before resigning in December last year.
Two years ago in Mumbai, Sharad Pawar, then the newly elected president of the Mumbai Cricket Association, threw out a report on corruption involving World Cup tickets and catering that was produced by his own association.
“The world is corrupt and FIFA represents the world,” Dan Wetzel writes for Yahoo.com. The BCCI doesn’t represent the world, but it does represent India and there is no doubting India is corrupt.
The arrests of seven FIFA officials in Zurich is the fantasy come to life of everyone who wants to clean up cricket in India. However, for the muck to be well and truly swept out of the BCCI’s Augean stables, the fantasy of police arresting officials has to become a reality. Until then, it will be business as usual no matter who sits on the throne.