Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the global governing body of soccer (Fifa), supposed to be a charitable organisation, will net a profit of over $2.6 billion at the end of the World Cup.
Around two-thirds of the revenue come from television rights. However, Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke terms it “commercial revenue”, not profit, on the grounds that it relates “to the cycle of not just the World Cup, but the cycle between the 2010 Cup and 2014”.
The previous World Cup in South Africa fetched $3.66 billion for Fifa. Expenditure incurred was $1.30 billion and so net profit was $2.36 billion.
The Zurich-based world soccer body doesn’t have to pay tax to the country that hosts the Cup although it has to pay taxes to the Swiss government. But its claim to be a charitable organisation is open to scrutiny. Keeping a 450-plus staff, although paid fairly well with statutory pension benefits, is no generosity. Rather, a committee of its Ethics Commission last year accused the Fifa brass of fostering a “culture of nepotism”. A nephew of Fifa President Sepp Blatter had been awarded marketing rights. It stated, “The lack of transparent structures and culture of nepotism affect the organisation’s reputation and undermine its ability to show the way to ethical governance of the sport.”
Fifa is in a quagmire of corruption too. The Swiss authorities threatened to cancel tax privileges in 2011, when Swiss MP Ronald Rino Buechel, representing the Swiss People’s Party, termed it “a big company in the international entertainment business “ and compared it with “a sixth-division football club, or a fisherman’s association”. He demanded that tax concessions be withdrawn forthwith.
Little wonder Blatter, 78, occupying the top slot since 1998, seeks another term. His apathy towards the agitating 400,000-plus protesters — mostly the “wretched” of South America’s only Portuguese-speaking country — on the inaugural day in Sao Paolo is similar to that of Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, who did everything to subdue the protests on June 12. For the homeless workers’ movement, Dave Zirin’s Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy is a manifesto for survival. They feel the farcical face of Fifa. The revenue out of it — $8 billion — is worse than any kickback.
Sankar Ray is a Kolkata-based writer
The views expressed by the author are personal