Reaction to the arrest of 9 high-ranking officials at FIFA on Wednesday was swift, with prosecutors charging 14 people overall over a $150+ million racketeering and fraud scheme that included wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, according to law enforcement. Officials named in the 47-count indictment include Jeffrey Webb; Julio Rocha, Eduardo Li, Eugenia Figueredo and Jose Maria Marin who now face extradition to the US. The defendants also include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have paid the millions in bribes and kickbacks to obtain media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments. Swiss prosecutors, meanwhile, opened criminal proceedings into FIFA’s awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
FIFA representatives stated that this week’s congress and presidential election are moving forward as planned, despite protests from organizations such as UEFA, as will the controversial 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has not been implicated in the charges.
Top statements about the arrests:
From Blatter: As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football. While there will be many who are frustrated with the pace of change, I would like to stress the actions that we have taken and will continue to take. In fact, today’s action by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General was set in motion when we submitted a dossier to the Swiss authorities late last year.
From US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch: “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States. It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable. Today’s action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice – and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort.
From the US Soccer Federation: The United States Soccer Federation firmly believes there is no higher priority, and nothing more important, than protecting the integrity of our game. We are committed to the highest ethical standards and business practices, and we will continue to encourage CONCACAF and FIFA to promote the same values. Out of respect for the ongoing investigation, we will not speculate or comment further on this matter at this time.
From the North American Soccer League: In light of the ongoing investigation announced by the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday, the North American Soccer League’s Board of Governors has suspended Chairperson Aaron Davidson, along with all business activities between the league and Traffic Sports, effective immediately. Commissioner Bill Peterson will serve as acting Chairperson.
From UEFA: Today’s events are a disaster for FIFA and tarnish the image of football as a whole. UEFA is deeply shocked and saddened by them. These events show, once again, that corruption is deeply rooted in FIFA’s culture. There is a need for the whole of FIFA to be “rebooted” and for a real reform to be carried out. The upcoming FIFA Congress risks to turn into a farce and therefore the European associations will have to consider carefully if they should even attend this Congress and caution a system, which, if it is not stopped, will ultimately kill football. The UEFA member associations are meeting tomorrow ahead of the FIFA Congress. At that point, the European associations will decide on what further steps need to be taken to protect the game of football.
From Adidas per Business Insider: The Adidas Group is fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners. Following today’s news, we can therefore only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do. Adidas is the world’s leading football brand and we will continue to support football on all levels.
From McDonald’s per THR: McDonald’s takes matters of ethics and corruption very seriously and the news from the U.S. Department of Justice is extremely concerning. We are in contact with FIFA on this matter. We will continue to monitor the situation very closely.
From Coca-Cola: This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup, and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations. We expect FIFA to continue to address these issues thoroughly. FIFA has stated that it is responding to all requests for information and we are confident it will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities.
From Budweiser: We expect all of our partners to maintain strong ethical standards and operate with transparency. We continue to closely monitor the situation through our ongoing communications with FIFA.”