It’s the type of circular logic that maddens even as it keeps veteran politicians in power. Sepp Blatter, needlessly to say, is quite good at it. Responding to documents released yesterday by a Swiss prosecutor which indicated Ricardo Teixeira and former FIFA president Joao Havelange received “millions in bribes” from marketing company International Sports Media and Marketing in exchange for lucrative World Cup TV rights, Blatter told FIFA.com:
You’re supposed to have known.
Known what? That commission was paid? Back then, such payments could even be deducted from tax as a business expense. Today, that would be punishable under law. You can’t judge the past on the basis of today’s standards. Otherwise it would end up with moral justice. I can’t have known about an offence that wasn’t even one.
The case has been closed from a legal point of view. But isn’t there still an ethical question to be answered?
Of course. That is why we have started to strengthen our control mechanisms: to prevent something like this happening in the future. The Ethics Committee, which was created in 2006 on my initiative, is a direct result of the ISL case.
So, despite behaviour that would be almost certainly regarded as unethical by any accountable organization, because it wasn’t strictly illegal under Swiss law, Blatter saw no issue.
Which is a poor defense to be sure in its own right, but what’s remarkable is the insinuation that this issue was one of the core reasons behind Blatter’s creation of the Ethics Committee in 2006, and not, as was initially reported six years ago, to combat match-fixing and referee bribery.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s stunning revelations about Havelange has sadly descended into moral equivocation in some quarters because Joao Havelange expanded the game globally following the insular Stanley Rous era, as if unethical behaviour could simply be ‘offset’ in the manor of carbon credits by ‘good works’ (and even then, the purity of Havelange’s flirtation with non-European FAs is also suspect, considering he needed their votes to become president back in 1974). It seems discussion of ethics is as crude without FIFA as it is within.