Friday, November 20, 2015

Dogged Jennings has had his reward

Sports Classics Review No. 2

Second-hand book sales can be wonderful things. They are marvellous for offering up books that when they first came out didn't really grab the attention.

That's not so much for what they contained but money tended to be spent on more urgent reads.

But it was great at a recent sale in Auckland to pick up a copy of Andrew Jennings' FOUL! The secret world of Fifa.

It was especially timely after all that has happened this year with the legal action against many of the subjects outlined in this 2006 book by Jennings. His book follows an earlier assessment of Fifa by David Yallop, How they stole the game which concentrated on the earlier escapades of Havelange.

The on-going hunt for Fifa scalps has been a pre-occupation for Jennings in recent times, following his similar work against the International Olympic Committee, especially the disgraceful fascist Samaranch who, like his soccer counterparts Havelange and Blatter, was at the helm of his organisation when television rights suddenly made a significant difference to the amount of money their games were worth.

How fascinating it would be if Jennings were to turn his attentions on the mafia who now run world cricket – but that's another story.

Jennings' contacts provided him with plenty of meaty material, of such a nature that there could be little doubt of its authenticity. The fact that Blatter, in particular, proved so dismissive of his pointed questioning reveals just how close to the truth Jennings was.

It is the way that power corrupts that annoys most when reading this book. Here we have a game that is being ripped off by its senior administrators whose only real goal, pardon the pun, in life should be ensuring the advancement of their sport.

Instead it is their own puffed up advancement that is important to them. Especially horrific is the tale of West Indian manipulator Jack Warner and his Concacaf cronies, including the clearly despicable American Chuck Blazer, and how they rigged a leadership vote.

They ensured Haiti's delegate to Fifa was not allowed to board a plane from Port au Prince on the order of the country's Secretary for Sport. He had committed no crime. He was heading to Fifa to vote in the presidential race. In his place Warner arranged for the girlfriend of Jamaica's football president Horace Burrell to stand in and put Haiti's vote to their preferred option, Blatter.

Yet, in spite of the subterfuge, not one voice of protest was raised by those in Concacaf's lobby about the fix.

Blazer, of course, was convicted of bribery, tax evasion and money laundering charges in the US and worked undercover with prosecutors to effect the arrests made earlier this year. Fifa has subsequently banned him from all football-related activity for life.

So many similar instances of corruption are spread through the tale that the only surprise is that it took prosecutors, American ones at that, so long to act. It doesn't say a lot for the Swiss legal system that such corruption was allowed to occur.

But, whatever, action is now underway and for that reason Jennings can be extremely satisfied that he had played such a big role in the fight.

More will still be coming out in the future but to get some sort of idea of the machinations behind it all, the deceit, the lack of disclosure and the corruption, Jennings' book is well worth a read.

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