The election of a FIFA president is probably as close as we can get to a world president, as being the governor of the world’s most popular sport certainly allows one to wield an insane amount of power and influence. What exactly Gianni Infantino has done to earn a second term is anyone’s guess, other than promising a whole lot to smaller nations who continuously fear the power and influence UEFA, for instance, would like to wield. In any rational world, Infantino’s toddler meltdown on the eve of the World Cup in November would have been a disqualifying event. But FIFA isn’t the rational world. Fuck, this dude just compared his own struggles to the recovery of post-genocide Rwanda.
Whoever is casting votes for Infantino, and who had convinced everyone else there was no point in running against him as he was unopposed, sure seems inured to the problems of the organization. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to be. And this week was chock full of them.
It started yesterday when Human Rights Watch pleaded with soccer’s overseeing body to use the Legacy Fund they created before the World Cup to compensate migrant workers and their families, as they had a nasty habit of, y’know, dying while preparing the country for the World Cup and during it. Those that survived were still faced with abominable working and living conditions for meager-at-best pay and an unfathomable amount of abuses.
The Legacy Fund is not something new, as there was always one for hosting countries of the World Cup that gets some, though not all, of the gargantuan revenue FIFA generates from the World Cup. Generally, it has gone to help develop soccer in those countries through investment in youth programs and the like. The difference in Qatar was that FIFA adjusted the aim of the fund to provide for education and a labor excellence hub, whatever the fuck that might be. No mention of the backs and corpses the entire tournament was built on, of course.
As you might expect, whatever oversight and enforcement FIFA paid lip service to before and during the tournament in Qatar has eroded since the spotlight has been taken off the country. The Norwegian Football Federation is pushing a proposal along the lines of Amnesty International’s call for FIFA to compensate workers and their families, which will supposedly be discussed today during their conference. Don’t hold your breath.
Speaking of FIFA’s money, if there’s one thing the organization and Infantino personally are pretty good at is waving people in to pat them on the back for minimal accomplishment. Infantino announced yesterday that the prize money for the Women’s World Cup this summer will jump to $110 million, but that’s still a quarter of the prize money for the just concluded men’s version. Infantino claimed that FIFA is now “on a path” to equalize the prize money, but one needs to only look under the hood for just a second to realize what a horseshit claim this actually is.
One, there was nothing stopping FIFA from equalizing the prize money on their own. The Qatar tournament generated $7.5 billion. We know the money’s there. And if you look at Infantino’s habit of throwing blame in every direction but inward, you’ll see what the real game is here.
Until this tournament, the broadcasting rights and sponsorships to both the men’s and women’s World Cup were sold as a package. You bought one, you got both, full stop. So there was no accounting for what money went where, it just all went into one big pool. Which of course means the money was always there to pay out equally for both tournaments. FIFA just didn’t.
However, this 2023 World Cup is the first Women’s World Cup to be split off, which is why we got the brief flirtation with Saudi Arabia being a sponsor to a tournament they had no business being associated with. It also allowed Infantino to blow himself while castigating others for not offering enough for the broadcast rights and simultaneously remove himself and FIFA from responsibility. “There’s nothing we can do, this is what they’re offering!” The UK, where tournament favorite England are from, only secured a deal through the BBC and ITV last month, a mere six months before the tournament started. This wasn’t a problem when the rights and sponsorships were pooled until FIFA made it one, and the division of them now sure smells like an abdication and foisting blame on someone else so FIFA can continue to hold onto more money.
But as we’ve learned throughout its entire existence, there isn’t a group FIFA and Infantino won’t screw over to make an extra buck.