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The Fall of the House of Fifa Hardcover – 8 Jun 2017
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"This book has a cumulative power, piling betrayal on betrayal, until they even include one of Conn’s childhood idols from the 1974 World Cup, the German player Franz Beckenbauer" (Andy Beckett Guardian)
"We have known for so long that Fifa, world’s football’s governing body, is rank with institutionalised corruption… But then if we are to hand a rifle to anyone to shoot fish in a barrel, there could be no choice than David Conn, the dogged investigate reporter… The figures he uncovers in this book are breathtaking" (Jim White Mail on Sunday)
"Excellent" (David Walsh Sunday Times)
"Even in age inured to corruption, the reign of Sepp Blatter over football’s global ruling body, Fifa, was jaw-droppingly spectacular… How did he do it? David Conn’s patient unravelling of Fifa’s tangled web provides the answer, and it makes for ugly but revealing reading… Conn, a sport journalist on the Guardian, negotiates the murky world of big money with confidence and dogged calm in this tale of the beautiful game gone bad" (Nigel Jones Observer)
"A very fine piece of reportage, probing to the organisation's dark and festering heart while also taking care to accentuate the good FIFA has done in the world" (Gavin Cooney BALLS.ie)
About the Author
David Conn is the author of The Beautiful Game? and multi-award-winning journalist for the Guardian. He has been awarded UK sports news reporter of the year three times, and sports journalist of the year in the British Journalism Awards. David has many years of unique experience carrying out original investigations into football and its modern relationship with money, and has been a key part of the Guardian’s coverage of the Fifa crisis.
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David Conn is one of the world’s leading authorities on football's commerce and politics. I would be amazed if, come the end of the year, he isn’t shortlisted for one of the various sportswriter and/or investigative journalism awards, despite the fact that the main premise of this book is hardly a revelation.
It has of course been widely known for decades that FIFA is a corrupt organisation, that Jack Warner is one of the planet’s greediest and most voracious gangsters and, more recently, the 2018/2022 voting process which awarded Russia and Qatar the next two World Cups was entirely fraudulent. So what, you might ask, would Conn hope to achieve by churning up stuff we already know - much of it thoroughly depressing reading for any lover of the game? The answer is that nobody has hitherto undertaken anything like Conn's degree of research to collate and chronicle FIFA’s history and thereby identify the key events and protagonists in this epic catalogue of greed and embezzlement which started nearly 50 years ago and flourished unabated for so long. If you don’t know how the seeds were first sown back in the sixties and you plan to read this book, then I won’t spoil it for you. But suffice to say that if you have any designer sportswear or equipment bearing the brand of a certain German corporation (beginning with ‘A’ and ending in ‘S’) then by the time you finish the book you may well feel like chucking it all out and boycotting their products forever.
All the key influential characters are here, from Sir Stanley Rous, the visionary but austere English pioneer of the modern FIFA, to the recently deceased and utterly ludicrous fraudster Chuck Blazer – with his insatiable appetite, luxurious jet-setting lifestyle and personal office suite in NY’s Trump Tower (complete with a dedicated high-rent apartment for his cats whose piss caused the entire floor to stink!) – all paid for by FIFA and CONCACAF, naturally. It's no surprise that Warner emerges as the most repulsive of all the criminals but many other FIFA executives, presidential candidates and Confederation officials from all corners of the globe are also exposed as corrupt and/or complicit.
Of the playing legends implicated in recent scandals, Franz Beckenbauer is the subject of one of the book’s most explosive chapters but, in contrast, I was left feeling sympathy for Michel Platini who appears to have been naive (as opposed to wilfully corrupt) when he stepped up from UEFA into a FIFA role for which he clearly had insufficient political nous and where he was groomed, manipulated and then hung out to dry by Sepp Blatter. To this day Blatter blames Platini for the Qatar debacle which he conveniently claims was caused by a last-minute politically motivated – and Sarkozy influenced - change of vote by the French.
As for arch-villain Sepp 'The Penguin' himself, the author must be congratulated for securing a personal interview, lyrically described in the illuminating final chapter. In fairness to Blatter, he deserves a modicum of credit for agreeing to the meeting in which he comes across as more of a crackpot and a delusional fantasist in perpetual denial than the crook who presided over a global pandemic of corruption in the world’s biggest sport.
All told this is a superb book, painstakingly researched and masterfully presented, with its endless parade of odious, ridiculous and/or incompetent characters (plus the occasional brave or honourable one). It's not an easy read and it demands concentration but, remarkably, Conn manages to summarise FIFA’s hugely complex fifty-year web of corruption in a readable 300 pages without compromising on the important details – a major feat in itself.
And so the story continues. A few weeks after this book was published Angel Maria Villar, the big boss of Spanish soccer, was charged with corruption and forced to resign from FIFA's executive committee. As I write we are on the eve of another over-hyped and over-cooked Premier League season - with World Cup to follow – preceded by a summer which has featured transfer fees and player wages verging on the lunatic. It’s all enough to make every traditional fan of the beautiful game reach for the sick bag.
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