Havelange reshaped FIFA but career ended in disgrace

Tue Aug 16, 2016 1:13pm EDT
 
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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - One of Joao Havelange's favorite utterances was that when he arrived at FIFA house to take over as president in 1974, he found $20 in the till and headquarters that were falling apart.

When he left 24 years later, he said there was $4 billion in the coffers, $100 million worth of property and soccer's governing body had more members than the United Nations.

During his presidency the Brazilian, who died at the age of 100 on Tuesday, transformed FIFA and its flagship competition, the World Cup.

Havelange ushered in big-money sponsorship of the finals, turning them into a highly lucrative operation that had television networks and some of the world's largest corporations falling over themselves to get a slice of the action.

On the field the World Cup went from 16 teams in 1974, almost all drawn from Europe and South America, to 32 in 1998, most of the added places going to the confederations of Africa, Asia and North and Central America.

But Havelange was frequently criticized for being autocratic, his reign was tainted with allegations of corruption and his career ended in disgrace.

In 2013 he resigned as honorary FIFA president after the Ethics Committee ruled he had taken bribes from the now-defunct sports marketing agency ISL.

A report by FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert described his behavior as "morally and ethically reproachable".

Two years earlier he had quit as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a post he had held since 1963.   Continued...

 
Joao Havelange, the President of FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, speaks at the organisation's 51st congress in Paris June 7, 1998.  REUTERS/Ian Waldie/File photo - RTX2L6K6