The arrest of five Fifa executives in a Swiss luxury hotel has freaky echoes of the Watergate scandal which was to lead to the impeachment of President Nixon
Wednesday 27th of May, 2015: Breaking news that five Fifa executives had been arrested by Swiss police on charges of corruption and money-laundering over a period of twenty years.
In breaking the news, The New York Times offered the curious headline: FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges; Sepp Blatter Isn’t Among Them
In its first report, still in the early hours in New York, the paper outlined the background to the breaking news:
Swiss authorities conducted an extraordinary early-morning operation here [today] to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges.
As leaders of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel,
The inquiry is also a major threat to Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s longtime president who is generally recognized as the most powerful person in sports, though he was not charged. Blatter has for years acted as a de facto head of state. Politicians, star players, national soccer officials and global corporations that want their brands attached to the sport have long genuflected before him.
An election, seemingly pre-ordained to give Mr. Blatter a fifth term as president, is scheduled for Friday. A FIFA spokesman insisted [at the news conference] that Mr. Blatter was not involved in any alleged wrongdoing and that the election would go ahead as planned.
The Lessons of History
In my mind, the business has remarkable aspects of the Watergate affair which eventually led to the impeachment and disgrace of President Nixon. The plot, if not the details of All The President’s Men, carries a great deal of accurate reporting of the drama.
It is usual to acknowledge the dangers of assuming history repeats itself accurately. It may help suggest ways of interpreting a contemporary story. Or, if we follow the gloss on Hegel made famous by Marx, the events of Watergate occurred as tragedy and may now be re-occurring as farce.
If Fifagate is a farcical rerun of Watergate, don’t expect a sudden resolution. Richard Nixon continued to protest his innocence as the evidence against him mounted. Sepp Blatter, will do likewise, although the suggestion that he was unaware of any corruption going on around him is itself evidence of at least leadership incompetence on a heroic scale.