Meal vouchers and water feed FIFA jamboree as austerity bites

Fri Feb 12, 2016 3:58pm EST
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By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - As the princes, sheikhs and diplomats who would rule world soccer filed into a Miami airport hotel it struck an incongruous tone, a world away from the opulent jamborees of popular myth.

There were no gilt thrones to hand, nor velvet curtains hanging heavy. Instead, a small group of around 50 men – the men who will help elect the next FIFA president - settled down in rows of cheap seating.

This was global soccer politics, austerity style.

With FIFA having suspended payments to CONCACAF, the governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, the delegates accustomed to a five-star life made do with meal vouchers and glasses of water in the lobby.

The champagne-fueled days of life under former president Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands, now facing charges of fraud, money laundering and racketeering conspiracy in the United States, must have seemed very far off.

Certainly, this extremely rare glimpse of life at the heart of soccer politics was an eye-opener. Not, though, for the reasons the select few journalists admitted to the normally sacrosanct chamber, had anticipated.

For decades, journalists have been locked out of the gatherings of FIFA - global soccer's governing body brought to its knees by corruption.

A total of 41 individuals and entities, including many former FIFA officials, have been charged with corruption-related offences in the United States. FIFA also faces a parallel Swiss investigation.   Continued...

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino attends a news conference after an Executive Committee meeting at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, January 22, 2016.  REUTERS/Denis Balibouse