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Five alarming things about the latest Fifa revelations for the ‘new Fifa’

Five alarming things about the latest Fifa revelations for the ‘new Fifa’

Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke and Markuss Kattner did one heck of a job enriching themselves during Blatter’s last five years at Fifa. New documents reveal that they benefitted from contracts and bonus payments which amounted to around $80-million. While this new evidence is a step forward in Fifa’s transparency, they also reveal just how easy it is to swindle your way through committees and sub-committees. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

Any revelations into the investigations of the rot of Fifa is no longer a surprise, so the fact that former Fifa head honcho Sepp Blatter and two other top officials helped themselves to undisclosed bonuses and contracts to the tune of $80-million during their last five years in office was met with a collective shrug.

An internal investigation has revealed that Blatter, Jerome Valcke, his number two as secretary-general, and finance director Markus Kattner “co-ordinated” to enrich themselves through massive payments. The revelation came a day after yet another raid by the Swiss Police, this time on Kattner’s old office.

The raid relates to Blatter and Valcke as the ongoing investigation into the corruption stench, which stretches for decades and spread seemingly through every crevice of Fifa’s top management, ploughs ahead.

These revelations come as a result of an investigation by “the new Fifa” led by Gianni Infantino and while they have probably been made public in an attempt to convince everyone that they are on the right path, they are also a cause for concern as they reveal just how easy it is for committees and subcommittees to miss swindling going on right under their nose.

Days after the raid in Zurich last year, Blatter decided he deserved a raise

If there was any doubt left as to just how disconnected Sepp Blatter is about the rot of his regime, you need to look no further than him deciding he needed a raise just after last year’s raid in Zurich. Having just won re-election for a fifth term as president, Blatter signed a contract which boosted his salary to $3-million a year and guaranteed him a $12-million bonus if he completed his mandate.

Blatter, who is banned from football related activities for six years over a dubious payment to Michel Platini, continues to deny wrongdoing. In a statement responding to the latest revelations, his lawyer, Richard Cullen, said Friday, “We look forward to showing Fifa that Mr Blatter’s compensation payments were proper, fair and in line with the heads of major professional sports leagues around the world.”

Even if the payments are in line with what other top officials in world sport receive, it does highlight just how staggeringly disconnected Blatter was about the realities of what had gone on around him. To date, Blatter has not been charged with any fraud or racketeering, but there is no way that anyone can still believe he was fit for a leadership position in an organisation that was rotten to the core.

A compensation subcommittee failed to stop the massive payouts

Most alarming of all the revelations is that the compensation subcommittee, set up in 2013, failed to rein in any of this undue spending.

This subcommittee defined the compensation for the president, the members of the Fifa Executive Committee, the secretary-general and the deputy secretary-general. It is chaired by the head of the Audit and Compliance Committee and also includes the chairperson of the Finance Committee and one independent member.

It began reviewing contracts in the same year in which it was established and attempted to cut Blatter’s bonuses and salary. However, it missed the boat on Valcke and Kattner’s spending. In 2013 and 2014 the very same committee approved substantial payouts to both.

These revelations are worrying, especially in a time when Fifa insists that they are cleaning house. As long as Fifa continues to rely on internal appointments to clean house, it is very difficult to believe that they are serious about reform, especially when evidence repeatedly shows that committees often miss glaring issues such as these massive payouts.

The dates in some of the contract amendments are ominous

For investigators, the multiple amendments to contracts, often approved in close sequence, is of great concern. Equally worrying is the dates on these contracts. In April 2011, right before Fifa’s presidential election and with Blatter running against Mohammed Bin Hamman, Valcke and Kattner were given eight-and-a-half-year contract extensions. Their base salaries and bonuses were increased massively.

Investigators also noted that in December 2010, Blatter, Valcke and Kattner received $23.5-million in “special bonuses” for the 2010 World Cup, held in South Africa. According to the documents analysed, these bonuses were awarded retroactively – four months after the completion of the World Cup – and apparently without an underlying contract provision stipulating such bonuses.

Millions of dollars in bonuses were also awarded for the 2014 World Cup, with more to come for the 2018 World Cup. Performance bonuses are nothing special in any organisation, but it is the manner in which these bonuses were paid and the fact that it was the three men themselves approving these payments that is of great concern.

Also noteworthy is that at the same time as Blatter’s approved raise in 2015, the Compensation Subcommittee met and granted Kattner an additional four-year extension on his contract, pushing his end date from 2019 to the end of 2023. The contract extension is not such a big deal, but it is the subclause in that contract which is alarming.

The old boys club looks after its old boys

It is outrageous just how much swindling went on between Fifa’s top brass and just how far they’d go to make sure that they are financially taken care of. Kattner and Valcke were given severance terms that guaranteed them full payment in case their employment with Fifa is terminated and if their contracts were terminated for just cause. An additional “indemnification clause” was written in to force Fifa to pay all their legal fees and any associated fines and restitutions, even if they were found guilty.

Valcke was dismissed from his role as secretary-general in January while Kattner was booted out in May. It is not clear whether either of these two men are currently benefitting from these dubious clauses.

How Blatter and Kattner managed to sign contracts to allow them such cosy financial positions and have them approved by Fifa’s Chief Financial Officer in the immediate wake of the Justice Department allegations of widespread fraud and corruption against football officials is alarming and deeply concerning.

Fifa are desperate to show they are serious about reform

These latest revelations come from Fifa themselves. The raid last week was done by Fifa’s internal investigation team and they say that the documents seized will be shared with the Swiss Attorney-General’s office and the US Department of Justice.

These previously unknown discoveries, and subsequently making them public, could very well be an attempt to prove to legal authorities and fans that they are serious about long-term reform and regaining trust.

The question they haven’t answered yet, though, is how much more wrongdoing is yet to be uncovered? DM

Photo: A picture combo showing from left then FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke (picture taken 28 September 2012 in Zurich), and then FIFA President Sepp Blatter (picture taken 30 May 2015 in Zurich) . EPA/ALESSANDRO DELLA BELLA/ENNIO LEANZA

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