Corruption: FIFA
The idea of non-profit has diminished

An association is usually non-profit. Can it maintain such a status when it repeatedly violates human rights and accepts bribes? A commentary by ELLA DAUM

Translated by Gunnar Ahrens and Christine Crawford.

"I am the president of everyone, even those who have not voted for me"1 (Sepp Blatter)

According to Transparency International's statistics, Switzerland is a "clean" country where corruption is only an exception. Switzerland is ranked 86, on a scale which rates a country's level of corruption. 0 is "highly corrupt" and 100 is "very clean".

Switzerland signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, as early as September 2009. Whereas other countries, such as Germany signed much later on-in December 2014.

Due to Switzerland's hard stance on corruption, one would presume that as FIFA's headquarters is based there, that Switzerland would come down hard on such foul play and issue them with a permanent red card. After all, FIFA is an exceptional case for "clean" Switzerland and should be quite easy to eliminate.

Yet, why has the Swiss legal system so far struggled to deal appropriately with offending FIFA officials? Why is it that US Attorney General Loretta Lynch stepped in to make the first arrests? Also, why did it take until late May 2015? It is not as though suspicions of corruption within FIFA are a surprise.

Nobody cares about private corruption
Under Swiss law, corruption is clearly distinguished as either "economic" or "private". The former is considered an official delict2 and prosecution must be gained directly from the authorities, whereas prosecution for the latter is only possible in conjunction with Swiss competition law. Therefore, it inevitably leads to distortions of competition, and victims must file a complaint.3

Who would file a complaint regarding private corruption? Also, who is the victim in a case like this one surrounding FIFA?

The current legal situation is based on the assumption that the public is only harmed by officials accepting bribes, therefore bribery is treated as an official delict. Associations like FIFA accepting bribes from external sources is classed as a private matter.4

It is incredible that a gigantic association like FIFA has been paying out millions of dollars in bribes to external parties. According to FBI investigations, the allocation of the 2010 World Cup to South Africa, is a direct result of FIFA accepting bribes amounting to 10 million dollars.5

Swiss law is incorrect with its assumption that private bribes to association officials do not negatively affect the public. FIFA, as an NGO, gains its assets largely from membership fees or entry tickets to events and football matches, paid for by the public.

FIFA's funds come from the public whom they should actually be "serving". Due to their charitable status as an association, they are partially exempt from Swiss taxes. They are also renowned for sharing and promoting positive messages and values ​​such as "fair play", "the fight against racism and discrimination" and "social and cultural integration."6

Their charitable status was also questioned by Switzerland's Social Democratic Party (SP) in 2011 and during an "interpellation"7 to the National Council, during which the grievances FIFA is accused of were addressed. Their main objective was to strip FIFA of their charitable status.8 However, the SP's application was rejected.

Private corruption legislation is to be changed, by a revision of criminal corruption law. Bribery within the private sector is considered to be an official delict.

Beneficial to the public?
The question still remains as to whether an organisation which has revenues and assets worth millions upon millions of dollars-and accepts bribes-really has the public's interests at heart or if their only interest is "profit". Could an association that gives the World Cup to countries which violate human rights truly be interested in the public's interests?

US authorities noticed irregularities within the allocation of the 2010 World Cup to South Africa, the 2018 to Qatar and the 2022 to Russia.9 Interestingly, these are all countries in which human rights seem to be nothing more than a simple adjunct.

For a great majority of people, cultures and countries, football represents team spirit and the shared experience of watching an exciting game.

Is it absurd that an association, in which officials reward themselves once in a while with bribes, also enjoys enormous tax benefits? This is the same association that would like Qatar to host the World Cup...

Qatar is a country which hands out harsh and inhumane punishment, discrimination and violence against women and restricts freedom of speech.10 They are responsible for building large cold stores under extremely questionable working conditions, so that World Cup players and spectators can comfortably endure the local heat throughout the games.11

Do the following spring to mind when you think about FIFA? – "beneficial to the public", "serving the public", "volunteer", "charitable", "social", "unselfish", "altruistic", "benevolence".

Maybe the US should take away FIFA's tax-friendly status? However, as FIFA is based in Switzerland, this could take a while, just like the enquiry into the bribery allegations.

Ultimately, FIFA has been able to carry out their dubious transactions over the decades, with little resistance. Europe, especially Switzerland has failed to deal with this issue. However, perhaps they had no real interest in harming FIFA? Apparently, it is only the US that can be trusted to pursue corruption and violations of the law with the required legal force. A force which has so far been missing from any European country's intervention.

[1] Own translation. The original quote is as follows: "Ich bin der Präsident von allen, auch denen, die nicht für mich gestimmt haben".- URL:, 17.06.2015.
[2] An official delict is a criminal offence, pursued directly by the prosecution, as opposed to when someone (often the victim) first has to make an official complaint.
[3] Cf. URL:, 17.06.2015.
[4] Cf. URL:, 17.06.2015.
[5] Cf. Eberle, Lukas et al.: Spielverderber, in: Spiegel (30.5.2015), No. 23, pp. 16-26, at p.: 19.
[6] URL:, 17.06.2015.
[7] During an interpellation, Federal Assembly members can request information on important events, foreign/domestic policy issues or the administration.- Cf. URL:, 17.06.2015.
[8] Cf. URL:, 17.06.2015.
[9] Cf. Eberle 2015, p. 19, 24ff; URL:, 17.06.2015.
[10] Cf. URL:, 17.06.2015.
[11] Cf. URL:, 17.06.2015.


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Redaktion   10:00 Uhr 22.06.2015

Überschrift der Karte wurde geändert.

Ella Daum   17:46 Uhr 19.06.2015

Lieber Herr Hein,
da haben Sie Recht, tatsächlich soll nicht die tatsächliche sondern die wahrgenommene Korruption dargestellt werden. Auch Text und Karte stimmen deshalb nicht überein. Wir werden die Karte umbenennen, vielen Dank für Ihren Hinweis!

Freundliche Grüße
Ella Daum

Michael Hein   15:32 Uhr 19.06.2015

Liebe Frau Daum,

im Text weisen Sie zurecht darauf hin, dass der CPI nicht Korruption misst, sondern nur deren Wahrnehmung. Nicht ohne Grund ist dieser Index hochgradig umstritten. Leider wird diese wichtige (!) Information in der Karte unterschlagen - wie es so oft gemacht wird, auch von TI selbst. D.h., man erhält den Eindruck, als gäbe die Karte die tatsächlichen Korruptionsniveaus wider, was schlicht falsch ist. Sie sollten daher die Überschrift der Karte in "Korruptionswahrnehmung in Europa" ändern und vielleicht in die Legende eine Erläuterung einfügen.

Beste Grüße

Michael Hein

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