FIFA, global soccer’s governing body, is set to receive an additional $92 million in compensation for its losses related to a range of recent corruption incidents in the sport, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has said.
Yesterday (June 30), the DoJ said that in addition to the $201 million which it had earmarked for FIFA last August, it would make another $92 million available for soccer’s governing body.
The money has been taken from the bank accounts of various former officials who were involved in the corruption schemes – many of which related to the taking of bribes in return for assistance regarding media rights contracts for FIFA events.
Many of these officials have since been prosecuted and given criminal sentences, with the DoJ’s ‘Fifagate’ probe, which became public knowledge in 2015, ongoing.
The money is expected to be allocated to several of FIFA’s continental confederations, including Central America’s CONCACAF and South America’s CONMEBOL.
In a statement, the DoJ said: “This distribution of approximately $92 million as compensation for losses suffered highlights the importance of asset forfeiture as a critical tool in this endeavor.”
Michael Driscoll, assistant director for the New York field office of the US’ FBI, added: “There was an extraordinary amount of money flowing between corrupt officials and businesses in this massive scheme. It is gratifying to know assets seized from the criminals involved will be distributed to groups in need of the money …”
Since 2015, over 50 individual and corporate defendants from at least 20 countries have faced DoJ charges.
Offences committed included fraud, bribery, racketeering, and money laundering.
The scandal led to the end of FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s reign in 2015, and the election of his successor Gianni Infantino in February 2016.
The money will go into a new fund, the World Football Remission Fund, to help finance soccer-related projects worldwide.
Late last month, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of French soccer giants Paris Saint-German and the head of Qatar-controlled sports broadcaster BeIN Media Group, was acquitted – for a second time – of alleged wrongdoing in a trial also involving Jerome Valcke, the former secretary-general of FIFA.
The PSG and BeIN supremo was again cleared, after an initial not guilty verdict at a first trial in September 2020, of incitement to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement, for allowing Valcke to use a holiday home in Sardinia (which belonged to Al-Khelaifi) rent-free.
Valcke, meanwhile, was up for retrial on charges unrelated to Al-Khelaifi specifically, and concerning him taking bribes during negotiations for FIFA World Cup broadcasting rights. He has already been banned from all soccer-related activity until 2032 for yet further violations of the FIFA ethics code.
The trial has related to allegations that Valcke and Al-Khelaifi (who is also head of the European Club Association and a member of the executive committee of European soccer’s governing body UEFA) conspired in 2014 to ensure that BeIN secured the rights across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to both the 2026 and 2030 men’s FIFA World Cups.
Blatter, meanwhile, along with Michel Platini (former president of UEFA), is currently facing the prospect of up to five years in jail, with a verdict concerning the potential defrauding of FIFA by both parties expected on July 8.
Blatter and Platini are facing trial in Switzerland over a $2.2-million allegedly illegal payment made to Platini by FIFA in 2011 after prosecutors in that country indicted the pair in November last year.
The prosecutors have alleged that Blatter paid Platini the $2 million as compensation for consulting work without Blatter going through the proper payment channels, whereas both individuals say the payment was actually simply resolving Platini’s backdated salary (between 1998 and 2002) eleven years ago.
Both men, who claim the payment was a legal transaction made to recompense Platini for money owed from 1999, have already served six-year bans from soccer for separate ethics violations.
When asked why he waited until 2011 to raise the issue of this missing payment with FIFA, Platini said: “I trusted [Blatter] and knew that one day or the other he would pay me. I wouldn’t get into a deal with the president without trusting him.”
Meanwhile, FIFA has today (July 1) announced that semi-automated offside technology will be used at the World Cup in Qatar.
The federation said it will offer "a support tool for the video match officials and the on-field officials to help them make faster, more accurate, and more reproducible offside decisions".
The new technology uses 12 dedicated tracking cameras mounted underneath the roof of the stadium to track the ball and up to 29 data points of each individual player, 50 times per second, calculating their exact position on the pitch.
The 29 collected data points include all limbs and extremities that are relevant for making offside calls.
The official World Cup match ball, produced by German sportswear giant Adidas, will provide a further element for the detection of tight offside incidents as an inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor will be placed inside the ball.
This sensor, positioned in the center of the ball, sends ball data to the video operation room 500 times per second, allowing a "very precise" detection of the kick point.
By combining the limb- and ball-tracking data and applying artificial intelligence, the new technology provides an automated offside alert to the video match officials inside the video operation room whenever the ball is received by an attacker who was in an offside position at the moment the ball was played by a team-mate.
Before informing the on-field referee, the video match officials validate the proposed decision by manually checking the automatically selected kick point and the automatically created offside line, which is based on the calculated positions of the players’ limbs.
FIFA claims this process happens "within a few seconds" and will ensure that offside decisions can be made "faster and more accurately".
After decisions are confirmed by the video match officials and the referee on the pitch, the same positional data points that were used to make the decision are then generated into a 3D animation that will detail the position of the players’ limbs at the moment the ball was played.
This 3D animation will then be shown on the giant screens in the stadium and will also be made available to FIFA’s broadcast partners.
The semi-automated offside technology and the connected ball technology have been trialed at several test events and live at FIFA tournaments, including last year's Arab Cup and the Club World Cup.
FIFA said more tests will be conducted in the coming months to "fine-tune" the system before a "global standard" is implemented and can be used across the sport.