The Netflix limited series ‘FIFA Uncovered’ was released on the 9th November 2022, just under 2 weeks before the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Qatar. Sports Editor Jasmine Trapnell summarises the scandals discussed in the series including racketeering, corruption, wire fraud and tax evasion spanning 2 decades.

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is a multimillion-dollar international governing body that is extremely well known through-out the world. But FIFA has seen a lot of scandals over the years including some of the biggest names in football. This 4 episode Netflix series has documented decades worth of evidence and interviewed many witnesses and reporters to showcase the full extent of corruption in FIFA.

In 2015, 14 executive members of FIFA were arrested on suspicion of corruption, the names on the indictment were: Jeffery Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Jack Warner, Eugenio Figeuredo, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin, Nicolás Leoz, Alejandro Burzaco, Aaron Davidson, Hugo Jinkis, Mariano Jinkis, and José Margulies. These were some of the biggest names in football and were among the people who decided who would host the World Cup.

It goes back to João Havelange, former president of FIFA. Havelange was elected president 11th June 1974, his campaign involved him making promises to a large majority of African nations of providing resources to aid their development of football. To do this, Havelange brough Sepp Blatter on board as general secretary – Blatter created a partnership with Coca-Cola to generate money. Soon after this partnership was formed, others followed, including Adidas.

Horst Dassler (son of Adolf Dassler – founder of Adidas) saw an opportunity to further commercialise FIFA, so he created International Sport and Leisure (ISL). Dassler was able to buy all the marketing rights of FIFA for ISL through paying Havelange, to then re-sell portions of these rights to other companies. Blatter eventually found out this was happening as Dassler accidentally sent one of the payments to FIFA instead of Havelange.

It is reported that Blatter, used this to his advantage, making a deal with Havelange, that he won’t run for president again and will support Blatter whilst he runs for FIFA president – meaning that Havelange’s reputation was not ruined by reports of him being corrupt.

Although, the series details that there is a problem yet to be solved with how voting for a new president works, as federations with more countries get more votes, even if they have less presence at the World Cup. They use the example of CONMEBOL (South American federation) which includes Argentina and Brazil the two most historically successful teams at the world cup, get only 10 votes – however CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football) gets over 30 votes due to the number of Caribbean countries. This means anyone running for FIFA presidency must keep CONCACAF members happy. At the time of Blatter’s run for FIFA presidency, Jack Warner was the president of CONCACAF, so Blatter had to ensure that Warner was happy so that he could get other members to vote his way.

“In FIFA you have to be able to make alliances, and in that way, you tend to get what you want”

Warner states in an interview showed in the series, potentially alluding to the corrupt deals he has previously made.

Chuck Blazer was Warner’s general secretary and the two were described to have developed a very close personal as well as professional relationship. Both Warner and Blazer supported Blatter in his run for presidency, so Blatter had the support of CONCACAF – but Blatter also needed the support of Europe, so he turned to asking Michel Platini (ex-French footballer and manager who was thought of highly through-out Europe). Platini knew the power he would have if he supported Blatter’s campaign, so he set his price at 1 million USD, which Platini states in the show Blatter didn’t hesitate to pay.

The series goes on to state how Blatter also needed to confirm his support from all the African nations, so he promised South Africa that if they voted for him, that he will bring the World Cup to South Africa. Many nations in Africa were supporting Lennart Johansson – the other candidate for Presidency of FIFA, that is until the very last minute. In the series interviewees described how it was rumoured large sums of money had been exchanged.

“Voting for me means voting for a clean football and a clean FIFA”

Johansson states in his speech at the vote, implying that Blatter is corrupt.

Blatter won the election and was now President of FIFA. To follow through with his promises of supporting those countries who were “in need” he created Goal Project, the aims of this were to provide funding to countries to spend on things like facilities, education, and opportunities. However, due to FIFA not asking for reports or statements, this money could be spent on anything and by anyone. In episode 2 they show what was supposed to be a conference hall in Kenya, however it was unfinished and now habited by chickens – causing the question of where did this money all go?

In 2002, Zen Ruffinen (secretary general) started questioning Blatter and released a report stating there was mismanagement of a large scale under Blatter’s presidency and that he suspected corruption within FIFA. His points were quickly shut down and he was soon released from his job in FIFA.

The series then goes back to Jack Warner, CONCACF President and FIFA Executive Board Member. Warner was from Trinidad and Tobago himself, however they had never been to the World Cup before – until Warner gave them support and they then qualified in 2006. Some of the players from the time speak in the series, describing how they didn’t know what was supposed to happen next, so they organised a meeting with Warner which they would propose their demands at. After discussing the demands, Warner agreed, and the players would receive a split of 30% of the commercial revenue, and 50% of the qualification bonus.

However, when it came round to being paid, massive deductions for accommodation and airfare were added on – resulting in each player receiving just $800. One of the players goes on to detail how a major clubs football manager at the time had called him and said he wanted him on his team, but he was not allowed as all the Trinidad and Tobago players had been ‘blacklisted’ for questioning how much they had been paid. After fighting for years, the Trinidad and Tobago Government settled, however, there is still about $15 million unaccounted for.

Episode 2 continues by going back to Blatter’s run for presidency where he said he will bring the World Cup to South Africa. A way in which he supported South Africa’s bid was by befriending Nelson Mandela. After tense campaigning between South Africa and Morocco, South Africa were awarded the 2010 World Cup. But it was reported that South Africa bribed FIFA and used Mandela as a pawn – although it was always claimed by South Africa that the money was to be awarded to fund the African diaspora in the Caribbean.

Episode 3 details the events behind awarding Russia the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 World Cup – describing the double vote as pay day for the corrupt officials. It shows interviewees describing how verbal money exchanges for a vote were agreed, but witnesses believed this money to be going to football. Deals of gas and land are described too, but these were always denied by Executive Members to have influenced their votes.

This episode also details Mohammed Bin Hammams run for presidency, after being a close personal friend of Blatter, he was now running against him. Towards the end of his campaign, he visits Trinidad and Tobago, which was organised by Warner. This final plea for their votes, was arguably the start of the downfall of FIFA. Each Caribbean nation was told about a gift they would receive and were asked to meet one by one in a room with 3 officials where they were presented with an envelope containing cash of $40,000, for them to spend on football however they see fit. Some countries refused to take this bribe and instead reported it. Blazer had warned Warner that this was too risky, so when it started to come out about envelopes of money being handed out, Blazer quickly turned against Warner and was seen as a heroic whistle blower. Warner was forced to resign and so the investigation into him being corrupt was closed.

The final episode shows the FBI discovering that Blazer had not filed taxes in over 15 years and had failed to report several offshore accounts – but instead of charging him, they struck a deal so that they could catch others who they suspected were guilty of similar crimes. Due to Blazers help the FBI were able to arrest Warner’s sons who had been helping him with money laundering.

During this time Jeffery Webb had become the new President of CONCACAF and wasted no time asking for bribes between $10 million and $15 million. Reports on the deaths of workers in Qatar were also starting to emerge with it being expected 5200 people would die from building the infrastructure for their World Cup.

Blazer’s co-operation meant that the FBI were able to gather enough evidence to arrest 14 Executive members of FIFA. The names on the indictment were: Jeffery Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Jack Warner, Eugenio Figeuredo, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin, Nicolás Leoz, Alejandro Burzaco, Aaron Davidson, Hugo Jinkis, Mariano Jinkis, and José Margulies. However, Blatter was never charged with anything himself, despite working closely with these 14 members for years. Blatter was even re-elected yet again, for his 5th term despite all the corruption investigations surrounding him.

Uncovering FIFA is a bold (but necessary) move, one which this series has executed very well. The corruption in FIFA has been ignored for years, as documented in the series. The masses of evidence they have shared with the public is shocking and powerful. It makes you question whether we can even trust FIFA now?

The official Netflix trailer for FIFA Uncovered

Edited by: Jasmine Trapnell (Sport Editor)

Designed by: Megan Crowther (Head of Design)


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