How To Tame a Mad Dog: FIFA and Its Fangs

I apologize for not posting yesterday, as it was a busy weekend. I gave my tickets to a cousin and missed Sunday’s schneid-offing 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo because I was back home in Alaska, attending the wedding of my best friend. It was a big ol’ Alaskan throwdown with live music, a bonfire, lots of homebrew and fireworks!

I am back in Seattle now and I’ll be chiming in on the big Sounders news this week: DeAndre Yedlin, Wednesday’s US Open Cup Semifinal against the Chicago Fire, and the state of CenturyLink’s FieldTurf and how much these aesthetics matter as the Sounders grow to a truly global brand.

But first I want to direct you to a great article written by Jules Boykoff. Boykoff, a professor and soccer fan, recently published an essay in the Guardian. It is a great read, as Boykoff explores options to denature the parasitic fangs of FIFA:

At the opening match of this year’s World Cup, three Brazilian children walked to the center of the pitch and released three doves flapping frantically toward the São Paulo sky. Choreographed as a reminder that soccer can create peace and goodwill, the spectacle immediately backfired with inadvertent symbolism: apparently two of the birds never made it out of the stadium alive.

Anyone who’s watched the World Cup over the last month has been met with a visual cavalcade of advertisements from partners of Fifa, football’s beyond-corrupt governing body. But not unlike that avian display gone wrong, behind the shimmering scrim of spectacular billboards remain inconvenient truths. Here’s one: Fifa enjoys tax-exempt status at the World Cup, as do its corporate partners, and Brazil’s Internal Revenue Service has claimed – in a cautious estimate – that such exemptions rob the host country of nearly $250m.

Brazil just lost out on $22m in Saturday’s consolation match, and Fifa stands to amass more than $4.5bn in revenues from this World Cup alone. All for orchestrating an upbeat shakedown that stoked the hopes of another host, only to leave the public bearing the costs.

After sucking one too many countries dry, the para-state parasite that is Fifa should surrender its tax breaks in Brazil before it packs up and leaves. Indeed, this should be the last tax-exempt World Cup.

By design, Fifa’s financial landscape is a vast expanse of grey. It actually claims to make no demands for “a general tax exemption for sponsors and suppliers, or for any commercial activity in the host country.” It “only requires an easing of customs procedures” for importing materials necessary for the staging of the event. This is no different, Fifa contends, than any other major sporting event – like, say, the Super Bowl or the Olympics – but to deny tax exemption, potential host countries contend, is to torpedo a bid.

Fifa has long built a massive chasm between word and deed, and corporate giants – not struggling host nations – reap the benefits. Fifa partners like Budweiser have free rein in the exclusion zones that bubble-wrap stadiums where market competitors – let alone local vendors – are not allowed. Fifa even helped overturn a law banning beer in Brazilian soccer stadiums. How convenient.

We all love soccer. It is humanity’s game but its governing body, FIFA, is disgustingly corrupt and, frankly, evil. Like any powerful addiction, international soccer has its deleterious effects. Boykoff mentioned FIFA’s effect on Brazil’s entrenched legislature forbidding the sale of alcoholic beverages in any of the nation’s soccer stadiums. These laws were enacted for practical reasons after painful episodes of violence. Budweiser is a major sponsor of FIFA and thus Brazil had to suspend its self-determination law to host the World Cup. In short, FIFA strong-armed a sovereign nation’s constitution.

FIFA unfettered continues corrupting and wrecking the social organism of whatever country that seeks to do business with it. Soccer could be enjoyed without FIFA, we just need to stop relying on the pusher man.

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