The Art of Missing the Point: FIFA and the Control of Corruption

  • Dan Hough
  • William R. Heaston
Part of the Political Corruption and Governance book series (PCG)


Football’s world governing body, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), has been beset by a range of corruption allegations. This chapter analyzes the nature of those allegations and outlines why FIFA has found it so difficult to embrace meaningful reform. We argue that traditional explanations of why corruption happens, centering on the rationality of the actors involved, have only limited utility in this case. The reforms that FIFA originally initiated reflected the fact that the organization’s leaders failed to understand the problems they faced. The patron-client networks that underpinned FIFA’s governance approach remained for the most part untouched. Only when judicial authorities from the USA and Switzerland began investigating did the logics of appropriateness that had shaped FIFA’s decision-making and internal culture begin to be seriously questioned.


  1. Alegi, Peter. 2015. FIFA, Blatter, and Africa: A Special Relationship. The Conversation, June 3. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  2. Ardigo, Inaki and Dan Hough. 2017. Bishops that live like princes: Bishop Tebartz-van Elst and the challenge of defining corruption. Public Integrity (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  3. Banuri, Sheheryar, and Catherine Eckel. 2012. Experiments in Culture and Corruption: A Review. In New Advances in Experimental Research on Corruption, ed. Danila Serra and Leonard Wantchekon, 51–76. Biggleswade, Beds: Emerald Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. BBC. 2011. Triesman Claims Four FIFA Members Sought 2018 Bribes. Accessed 20 May 2011.
  5. ———. 2014a. Michael Garcia: FIFA Investigator Resigns in World Cup Report Row. Accessed 17 December 2014.
  6. ———. 2014b. GlaxoSmithKline Fined $490m by China for Bribery. Accessed 19 September 2014.
  7. ———. 2015. Libor: What Is It and Why Does It Matter? Accessed 3 August 2015.
  8. ———. 2016. FIFA Corruption Probe: House Searches in Switzerland. Accessed 30 November 2016.
  9. Coerts, Stefan. 2011. FIFA is Not a Corrupt Organization – Sepp Blatter. Goal, May 22. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  10. Collett, Mike. 2012. Pieth Urges FIFA to take Singular Chance to Reform. Reuters, May 25. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  11. Conn, David. 2017. Infantino’s Fifa ‘Incapacitated’ Corruption Fight, Say Ousted Ethics Chairmen. The Guardian, May 10. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  12. Conway, Richard. 2013. FIFA Ignoring Key Ideas for Internal Reform, Says Adviser. BBC, March 27. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  13. de Graaf, G. 2007. Causes of Corruption: Towards a Contextual Theory of Corruption. Public Administration Quarterly 31 (1/2): 39–86.Google Scholar
  14. FIFA. 2010. Two Members of the FIFA Executive Committee Provisionally Suspended. Media Release. Accessed 20 October 2010.
  15. ———. 2013. The President’s Address to Congress. May 30–31. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  16. Gibson, Owen. 2013. João Havelange Resigns as Fifa Honorary President over ‘Bribes’. The Guardian, April 30. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  17. ———. 2015. Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini Banned from Football for Eight Years by FIFA. The Guardian, December 21. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  18. Heaston, William R. 2016. Fixing FIFA: Addressing the Cultural Conundrum of Corruption. Unpublished Master’s thesis, University of Sussex.Google Scholar
  19. Hellmann, Olli. 2017. The Historical Origins of Corruption in the Developing World: A Comparative Analysis of East Asia. Crime, Law and Social Change (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  20. Hough, Dan. 2017. Analysing Corruption. Agenda: Newcastle upon Tyne.Google Scholar
  21. Independent. 2011. Blatter: ‘It’s my Duty to Guide FIFA Ship’. Accessed 1 June 2011.
  22. Johnston, Michael. 2006. From Thucydides to Mayor Daley: Bad Politics, and a Culture of Corruption? Political Science and Politics 39 (4): 809–812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kruessman, Thomas. 2017. Guest Post: The IOC Is Lagging Behind In Fighting Corruption in Sports Mega Events. Global Anticorruption Blog, June 15. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  24. Marquette, Heather. 2012. ‘Finding God’ or ‘Moral Disengagement’ in the Fight Against Corruption in Developing Countries? Evidence from India and Nigeria. Public Administration and Development 32 (1): 11–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Marquette, Heather and Caryn Peiffer. 2015. Corruption and Collective Action. Birmingham: University of Birmingham Development Leadership Programme, Research Paper 32.Google Scholar
  26. Mungiu-Pippidi, Alina. 2013. Controlling Corruption Through Collective Action. Journal of Democracy 24 (1): 101–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. ———. 2015. The Quest for Good Governance: How Societies Develop Control of Corruption. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Persson, Anna, Bo Rothstein, and Jan Teorell. 2010. The Failure of Anti-Corruption Policies. A Theoretical Mischaracterization of the Problem. Gothenburg: Quality of Government Institute, Working Paper Number 19.Google Scholar
  29. ———. 2013. Why Anticorruption Reforms Fail. Systemic Corruption as a Collective Action Problem. Governance 26 (3): 449–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pielke, Roger. 2013. How Can FIFA Be Held Accountable? Sports Management Review 16 (3): 255–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pieth, Mark. 2014. Reforming FIFA. Zurich: Dike Publishers.Google Scholar
  32. Rose-Ackerman, Susan. 1999. Corruption and Government: Causes, Consequences and Reform. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rose-Ackerman, Susan, and Bonnie J. Palifka. 2016. Corruption and Government: Causes, Consequences and Reform. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. The Guardian. 2014. Rise and Fall of Mohamed bin Hammam – Timeline. The Guardian, June 1. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  35. Thomas, Ed. 2015. FIFA Corruption: Documents Show Details of Jack Warner ‘Bribes’. BBC, June 7. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  36. Tomlinson, Alan. 2014. FIFA: The Men, the Myths and the Money. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Walton, Grant W. and Ainsley Jones. 2016. Subnational Collective Action in Papua New Guinea. Paper presented to the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, September 1–4.Google Scholar
  38. Wheatland, Ben. 2015. Why Good Governance in Football Associations Matters. Transparency International Blog, November 18. Accessed 10 July 2017.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan Hough
    • 1
  • William R. Heaston
    • 2
  1. 1.University of SussexBrightonUK
  2. 2.University of Pennsylvania Law SchoolPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations