(CBS) — World Cup soccer isn’t played just for kicks, the real prize is illegal cash. That’s the allegation from federal prosecutors, who charge soccer’s overlords with taking bribes and kickbacks.
Were the U.S. World Cup games tainted? CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, that’s one of the things the feds are probing.
The allegations charge that World Cup soccer isn’t just an organized sport, it’s more like organized crime.
“The 47 count indictment against these individuals includes charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies spanning two decades,” said U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Two decades ago, in 1994, the World Cup opener was here in Chicago, the only cup ever staged in the U.S., but it’s unclear whether the bribery touched the U.S. games.
“It does seem the focus of the indictments is very much North American, Central American and the Caribbean,” said Chicago Kent College of Law professor William Birdthistle.
Wednesday morning, FBI agents removed items from the Miami headquarters of FIFA’s American subsidiary. That came hours after seven world soccer officials were arrested in Zurich.
“I think some people are going to go to prison,some are going to pay fines” said University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson. “Will it reach right to the top? No.”
Powerful FIFA President Sepp Blatter isn’t accused of any crimes. He’s up for re-election Friday for this fifth term.
“You would think if he had any dignity or shame, he might have withdrawn himself from that process, but he intends to go forward,” Birdthistle said.
In addition to teaching law at Kent College, the Irish-born Birdthistle blogs about soccer. He says, only the U.S. has the backbone to clean up FIFA.
“FIFA has been trying to persuade America to take an interest in soccer for decades and now finally America has taken an interest and they’re showing up with indictments,” Birdthistle said.
Something else being investigated: the awarding of the 2018 World Cup games to Russia, and the 2022 games to Qatar.
Despite allegations of bribery and corruption, FIFA today maintained those decisions won’t be reconsidered.