FIFA Under Fire

By Rowan Williams
  • – FIFA in crisis following corruption revelations
  • – Hammond: UK will leave EU if demands not met
  • – China’s factory output struggles in May


The President of football governing body FIFA, Sepp Blatter, is facing increasing pressure not to seek re-election at Friday’s FIFA annual congress after one of the biggest sports corruption scandals in history. Nine senior FIFA officials were charged with corruption spanning 24 years on Wednesday by US prosecutors, along with five sports media and promotion executives. Several officials were arrested in a Zurich hotel on Wednesday, and a separate inquiry into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids has been launched. Of the 14 people charged by US authorities, 11 have been banned from football-related activity by FIFA. While Blatter has not been implicated in any crime, pressure for him to stand down has been increased by the threat of FIFA losing sponsorship deals. Visa has already said that it is reviewing its partnership with the organisation. Partners Visa, Adidas and Coca-Cola have all called upon FIFA to reform its practices in light of the scandal. European footballing body UEFA has called for Friday’s congress and election to be postponed, and is considering boycotting the election. FIFA has said the election will go ahead.

The United Kingdom will vote to leave the European Union in a referendum unless its demands for EU reform are met, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has warned. Hammond also indicated that a referendum campaign on EU membership could be launched in spring 2016, with a vote to be held in summer or autumn that year. Prime Minister David Cameron will bring his proposed reforms on a visit to the Netherlands and France today, as part of a tour to lobby support for his proposed changes. The Prime Minister will visit four European capitals during his tour. Details of the reforms include changing the laws that allow EU migrants to claim benefits in Britain. Legal advisers have said that such reforms would require changing EU treaties. Other reforms include being able to opt-out of the EU commitment to “ever closer union”. The Foreign Secretary has expressed confidence in the UK achieving its desired reforms.

China’s factory output in May struggled despite government stimulus, a survey has shown, suggesting greater government intervention may be required to counter the country’s economic slowdown. China’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which measures factory output, is expected to rise to 50.2 from 50.1 in April, with anything above 50 points indicating an expansion in activity. While China’s stock markets have been shown to react warmly to news of government stimulus, authorities face a struggle in making stimulus better felt elsewhere. HSBC this week lowered its 2015 growth forecast for China from 7.3 percent to 7.1 percent.

The Papers

Corruption within global footballing body FIFA makes the majority of headlines today. The Guardian writes of “The stench of corruption” in its headline, reporting that FIFA officials have been held following an FBI “swoop” on their Zurich hotel. FIFA is in an “unprecedented crisis” following the revelations, the paper writes, with inquires opened into the 2018 and 2022 football World Cup bids. The Financial Times writes that FIFA officials have been “accused of ‘rampant, systemic, deep-rooted’ corruption” by US authorities. US prosecutors have said that “millions” of dollars were taken in bribes. The Times quotes US authorities in its headline, writing of a “World Cup of fraud”. The paper writes of growing “Pressure” on FIFA President Sepp Blatter to stand down in the wake of the news. European football body UEFA has already called for Friday’s FIFA presidential elections to be postponed, the paper reports. The Independent features a large picture of Blatter on its front page, along with the headline “The shame game”. The page features a short, bold paragraph, writing of “24 years of corruption” at FIFA. The paper asks if Blatter will “finally take the blame for the greatest scandal in sporting history?” The Daily Telegraph leads with news that the Prime Minister has ‘cut off’ a major source of income for the Labour Party, as a “tax law governing union donations is reformed”. The party could lose “tens of millions” from the reform, the paper reports.

British Media on China

On China’s grave robber arrests: Arrests of 175 grave robbers in north-east China received coverage from the BBC, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. The BBC writes that the arrests of looters operating around Niuheliang archaeological site are “what authorities are calling the country’s biggest ever operation to recover stolen artefacts”. The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian use identical agency pieces, with the Telegraph’s headline calling the event “China’s biggest artefact find”. The Guardian writes that theft occurred “on an industrial sale”.

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