Blatter takes off his tie – reporters swoon
By Andrew Jennings
Sunday March 28, 2010
‘Ohmigod . . . they’re here, in the lobby, with their nasty questions,’ panicked FIFA’s general secretary. Confident Sepp Blatter took charge. ‘Point them to the boardroom, spread them around that huge table so they can’t gang up on us. Take your tie off, look relaxed – and rumple your hair, man!’
And so Herr Blatter and the equally immaculate Jérôme Valcke who had both come to work at FIFA House one morning last month in formal attire, ripped off their ties, glued warm smiles on their faces and bamboozled 20 foreign reporters into believing that the tickets disaster overwhelming the World Cup in South Africa was the responsibility of somebody, anybody – but not them.
That’s how it looked from the outside. The Almighty Blatter banned me from his press conferences seven years ago so I have to work off the posed photos of the tieless tousled duo, FIFA’s delusional press release, the uncritical reporting of the 20 handpicked notebooks - and the truths in the wider world. I had feared the elephants would be ignored. They were.
The meeting was scripted as a matey ‘media round-table,’ implying it was tasteless to pose the questions that should be asked about the problems FIFA have created for the upcoming tournament. At the end Blatter got away with the bland press release that he had ‘discussed with journalists the latest on football’s showpiece event.’
Name the Elephants!
Blatter and Valcke would have been even happier reading the next day’s papers. More tickets to be dumped in the laps of poor Africans. Poor FIFA will take a hit (they claim) but no mention of yet another blow to the ever-swelling budget, the burden of South African taxpayers. And that was about it. Innocuous reports emailed back to office.
Invisible to the hacks in the boardroom – so never named in their reports - were three massive monsters, their grey slab backs crushed against the ceiling, their waving trunks casting shadows over the happy gathering.
Two of these elephants, the Mexican brothers Jaime and Enrique Byrom, have been given the exclusive rights to sell World Cup tickets. You’d think that with hundreds of thousands of tickets unsold the hacks would have questions about why the Brothers repeatedly get this business.
The third partner in that jungle trio is a young fellow with an uncanny resemblance to FIFA’s president. That is not a coincidence. Philippe Blatter, the nephew, partners the two Brothers in MATCH, the company with a lock on the corporate hospitality business. They’ve 380,000 precious tickets to sell for top dollar. What a small world is the business of FIFA.
$100 million in bribes
If that’s not troubling, pay a visit to the home of Philippe’s Infront company in the Swiss city of Zug. The lofty glass and steel modern offices formerly housed the ISL sports marketing company. ISL had contracts similar to the ones Philippe also enjoys, minting money selling half the World Cup television rights to eager broadcasters.
What happened to ISL? They paid $100 million in bribes to FIFA and other sports officials for similar television and marketing rights and collapsed in debt. From Philippe Blatter’s window he sees – 100 metres away - the Zug office of the magistrate investigating who got those bribes. The man who paid them is a close friend of Uncle Sepp.
FIFA’s handout later that day was headed ‘The fans are our priority’ and that was the end of it. Game, extra time and MATCH to the tousled tieless.
IN THE BOARDROOM General Secretary Valcke had mentioned that MATCH’s high-priced corporate packages were selling slowly. Two weeks ago the grisly truth was revealed to a South African parliamentary committee. MATCH, whose prices suggest they didn’t notice when the lights went out at Lehman Bros bank, have been significantly abandoned by the corporate world.
continued . . .