The US Senate’s hearing into corruption in global soccer including the game here in the United States went largely unreported in the media that covers the sport domestically, with most of its coverage based in publications that cover politics and government. For years, the powers that be at US Soccer and Major League Soccer (MLS) have cultivated a cozy relationship with the media that covers these entities. Passiveness and cheer-leading often trump any sort of critical questioning or analysis of events.
With this in mind, it was little bit shocking to see myself quoted extensively in one of the few mainstream soccer media articles not published in World Soccer Talk about the US Senate hearing. Global football (soccer) is far more political and money-driven than the relatively obscure and small stakes world of Florida politics that we live in, so commenting about things I have observed and noting the gravity of the scandal and the political machinations inside the world of US Soccer, MLS and NASL (where I formerly worked) is fairly easy.
But it probably comes with serious consequences within the soccer world.
Yesterday, Soccer Amerca published a definitive article related to the hearing. One particular quote from me continues to illustrate the point of a passive media:
Kartik Krishnaiyer, the former head of public relations for the NASL, chides the American soccer press for ignoring the fact that the FBI’s indictments against the current and former Concacaf and Traffic Sports execs indicate that the “very hosting and marketing” of the currently underway Gold Cup “has been compromised by alleged corruption.”
“How were Chuck Blazer’s alleged activities that appear to have benefited MLS and U.S. Soccer not faced more scrutiny — such as MLS convincing Blazer to pressure FIFA to overturn the awarding of the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup TV rights from NBC Sports and to give them to ESPN instead. As a result, ESPN decided to start paying MLS for TV rights. Previously, MLS paid ESPN and FOX Soccer to put its games on those networks.”
The reality is very few if anyone in the press that covers soccer in this country are discussing the corruption and tainted nature of the Gold Cup while it occurs. It appears as if a faustian bargain has been struck between some media members and the powers that be in the game domestically. Furthermore, my point about the TV contracts for the two previous World Cups has been avoided by just about every other soccer writer in the country although at the very least it implies collusion between MLS, the disgraced Chuck Blazer and FIFA officials probably including Sepp Blatter.
When the FIFA scandal was about foreigners and soccer officials from outside the US or NASL which is the ugly stepchild in American soccer it was acceptable for US-based soccer reporters to be aggressive in chasing the story. But since focus shifted to Chuck Blazer, one of the godfathers of American soccer and other allegedly dirty deals that took place on American soil the coverage was almost entirely muted. Below I am quoted discussing the over $100 million in bribes that were allegedly paid to bring a South American tournament that has never left that continent to the United States next summer.
Finally, Krishnaiyer says that, per the FBI indictments, the decision to award the 2016 Copa America tournament to the U.S. allegedly included over a hundred million dollars in bribery (it was, according to the Federal indictment, part of a rights deal for four tournaments in which bribes of $110 million were or were scheduled to be paid out). “On this matter, it’s hard to believe that high-ranking officials either at the USSF or around the game in the United States had zero knowledge of this,” he says.
Given that many of these misdeeds happened on American soil and the US Senate has already stuck its foot in the water, I would urge my friends in the political media to start sniffing around these stories. My friends, you’ve done a great job exposing and covering scandal in the past and you could teach your colleagues who cover the world’s most popular sport in this country a thing or two.