The sordid tale of corruption in soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, potentially took a new turn last month when Swiss prosecutors announced that a “so-called whistleblower” gave prosecutors “interesting information relevant to the case” which “should be essential for the investigation.”
Swiss prosecutors also claimed that this information could help bring them closer to filing formal criminal charges of corruption against FIFA and suspended president Sepp Blatter.
The U.S. Department of Justice has also been investigating corruption in FIFA and has indicted numerous FIFA officials for conspiring to launder money and commit wire fraud.
The soccer world is fortunate that the whistleblower was brave enough to come forward. The organization recently revealed the identity of previous whistleblowers who submitted information to help with an investigation despite promises of confidentiality. Actions like that could have deterred any future insiders from revealing additional information about corruption.
Whistleblowers are essential to revealing information about fraud that might otherwise go undetected. Assurances of confidentiality can be critical because fear of reprisal often discourages individuals from becoming whistleblowers.
Whistleblowers have opened up the closed doors behind which FIFA officials have long operated, hiding bribery and corruption. In 2011, an employee on Qatar’s World Cup media team brought to light bribes made to FIFA’s voting members that allegedly helped secure Qatar as the 2022 World Cup host country. Another whistleblower gave information about sordid spending related to Australia’s 2022 bid.
Although the employees had been assured anonymity by FIFA’s internal ethics committee, their names were released by FIFA ethics committee Judge Hans-Joachim Eckert in a summary report.
The new whistleblower assisting with the Swiss investigation must be given greater protection than the previous whistleblowers were afforded.
Later this month, FIFA will be holding an election to name a new president to the organization, replacing Sepp Blatter. Whoever becomes the next FIFA president will have an opportunity to reform one of the most corrupt sporting organizations in the world. To ensure long-term change, a key step would be to provide sorely needed protections for FIFA whistleblowers.