THE ONLY way FIFA President, Sepp Blatter can be removed from power would be if the long running criminal investigation into the misuse of funds at FIFA were to “indict Blatter”. That is the view of investigative reporter, Andrew Jennings, who made the remarks during an exclusive interview with CU Today’s Greg Keane at the 2009 Play the Game conference in Coventry today.
“FIFA couldn’t get rid of Sepp Blatter because Blatter has an iron grip and is surrounded by people who support him. What we hope for is that the long running criminal investigation into the misuse of funds at FIFA, and it’s been running for four years in Switzerland now – that it indicts Blatter.”
Jennings said: “If he’s indicted by an outside agency with the capacity to take him to court and jail him if necessary, that’ll move tectonic plates and the corrupt people around Blatter could perhaps be overthrown.”
However, Jennings, author of the book, Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals, believes writers are far too apprehensive to investigate potential FIFA corruption and are unwilling to lose access to Blatter if they do.
“England is unique in this, we’ve settled for a lazy, smug, un-achieving (English journalists), I don’t know why they come into journalism. All they do is tell us not very much because they’re frightened on losing access. ”
“(The journalists believe) If I do something on FIFA corruption – which is not that hard to do, then I might not get a quote from Sepp Blatter. It’s pathetic, but the editors don’t realise because they don’t really read the sport sections.”
Jennings, who in 2006 investigated several allegations of bribery within FIFA for BBC’s Panorama programme, claims sports reporters these days spend their time investigating pseudo cases instead of concentrating on important and well researched activities.
“We older folk can remember when both quality papers and tabloids went after corruption in sport. That simply doesn’t happen in our newspapers now and if you look in our sport sections of our so called quality papers, I always think of them as a kind of wheelbarrow towed about 50 meters behind the main body of the paper,” Jennings claimed.
The winner of the Royal Television Society Award, for his Channel 4 News investigation on Olympic corruption in 2000, claims sports writers have turned to simply churning out trivial sport news stories.
“Sports news reporters turn around press releases or stories about people you’ve never heard about, moving to jobs at organisations you’ve never heard about, replacing people you don’t care about.”
He also has little time for the excuse that hacks in any aspect of journalism simply don’t have the resources or time to produce these crucial investigations.
“Well bloody work through the night then, do a double shift. Because investigative journalists do work very hard, the bad guys may think we’re loathsome toads but actually we do put a lot of time into securing their documents and what we hope is the truth about them.”
Jennings also revealed that he gained his information for his investigations from “decent and honest” delegates working from inside the FIFA organisation.
“I would not be able to get the information I get if they were all bad. There may well be corrupt people at the top, but a significant proportion are decent honest people who came into sport because they love sport and thought it was a good healthy thing and are disgusted at what they see their superiors doing.”