Rarely is the world presented with a conglomerate so devious even Ian Fleming would be jealous of its criminal inner workings, but the month of May regrettably uncovered such dubious activity via the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
After seven FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich, Switzerland on 27 May, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) unsealed a 47-count indictment—charging 14 defendants with assorted counts of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
The arrests and announcement came two days before the 209 member nations of FIFA held presidential elections.
Coincidence is rare with those in power, and these decisions were not done whimsically. No doubt attempting to influence the presidential hierarchy, the DOJ's announcement was aimed at the most powerful man in football, FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Running against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) supported Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan—as noted by the New York Times' Sam Borden—Blatter was a heavy favourite to retain his position as FIFA president.
Not obtaining the required majority in the election's first round, Blatter and Prince Ali were scheduled for a second round, but the Prince announced his withdrawal from the race—realising the disparity in votes was too substantial—thus, despite circumstances surrounding FIFA's 65th congress, Blatter won his fifth straight term.
The fundamental issue with FIFA is structure.
Firstly, term limits are non existent. This allows for near-dictator-like authority. Blatter, provided he completes his term, will eclipse 20 years in charge of the organisation—no matter the arena, this creates stagnancy and dependency.
Second, and more importantly, nations with little to no fiscal contribution or competitive offering have the same amount of congressional power as nations with both: One nation equals one vote. Collecting smaller, less affluent nations—whether by preferential treatment and/or alleged payments—is easier than dealing with the might of established superpowers.
In an environment where Brazil hold the same essential value as Saint Kitts and Nevis, Blatter's mastery of third-world politics is expertly Machiavellian.
For change to occur, nations who cannot generate money domestically would have to bite the hand that feeds—and unwilling to oblige those frustrated with Blatter's tactics, the footballing world is at a stalemate.
During Blatter's tenure, the World Cup's destination has been on four different continents. Europe, Asia, Africa and South America have all shared the responsibility of hosting the tournament, with Russia and Qatar scheduled to host the next two tournaments, so one wonders why the United States seems intent on removing the sitting FIFA president.
Scanning the current landscape, might the USSF and DOJ have worked in conjunction in an attempt to instal their own man at the top of FIFA, possibly closing the door on smaller nations and/or confederations who have received favours (and even competitions) under Blatter?
Might this be a ploy to have the World Cup (which is a spectator money-making apparatus) return to North America for the first time since 1994? Or are officials from the United States attempting to clean the game for altruistic purposes?
It is doubtful one would receive a straight answer from either party.
Are Blatter's methods "villainous?" Most would assert they are, but are they done with malicious intent? That can only be answered by the man himself.
Scheduling a summer footballing tournament in the desert is certainly vacuous, and with the United States falling second in the 2022 World Cup voting to Qatar, it makes sense they would investigate any wrongdoing—but should we pretend the DOJ's investigation is being done for anything than a monetary grand prize? Probably not.
That said, most will not care why the investigation is happening, only that it is.
Were there a revolving door of new faces, fresh ideas and accountability, FIFA's reputation would not be in the gutter and Blatter's name might not insight rolled eyes and shaken heads, but unfortunately that was not, and currently is not, an option.
May's occurrences have brought football's brand into further disrepute. The casual fan was shown an incompetent, unscrupulous image of the organisation tasked with promoting the world's most popular game: for that reason alone, FIFA and Sepp Blatter were last month's villains.
Where we go from here is anybody's guess.