The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that it will distribute forfeited funds recovered from perpetrators involved with the 2015 FIFA corruption scandal which rocked the soccer world. The initial remission, which stands at $32.3 million, will be awarded to FIFA, the global governing body of soccer, as well to CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, the regional governing bodies of the Americas.
The announcement comes after federal prosecutors in New York have spent years investigating and prosecuting individual soccer officials, sports marketing executives, and corporate entities for their involvement in a series of bribes and kickbacks tied to the hosting and broadcasting rights of high-profile soccer events across the globe. In addition to criminal charges, the scandal resulted in wide-spread personnel changes, including the stepping down of FIFA President Sepp Blatter in 2015, as well as a formal investigation into the validity of Russia’s Qatar’s hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, respectively.
In a press release issued on August 24, the DOJ stated that, to date, 27 individual defendants have pled guilty or have been convicted of various crimes related to the scandal such as racketeering, honest services wire fraud, and money laundering. While the U.S. Government continues to pursue bad actors involved with the scandal, the DOJ announced that the distribution—which will eventually rise to a total of $201 million—will be used by FIFA, CONCACAF, and CONMEBOL to fund youth development, community outreach, and humanitarian programs through a new “World Football Remission Fund,” established by the FIFA Foundation—an independent entity established in 2018 tasked with development of the beautiful game across the globe.
While it may seem counterintuitive to provide financial restitution to the very organizations that were deeply embroiled in the events of 2015, it is important to note that the governing bodies have maintained that they have been the victims in this situation. It would appear, through the DOJ’s announcement, that the government agrees with this stance and is confident that the safeguards incorporated into the FIFA Foundation—which includes increased oversight and independent audit systems—is sufficient to meet the needs of all adversely affected by the corruption scandal.
August 24th’s announcement only serves as an opening salvo for reparations to the soccer community. The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s FIFA Task Force continues to work with the DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture Program, the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, the FBI’s New York Field Office, and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division to ensure full prosecution of corrupt individuals and corporations and make reparations for the 2015 scandal. Additionally, several other countries, including Australia, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom launched their own independent investigations into soccer officials and the events surrounding the 2015 corruption scandal.
Despite allegations of bribery surrounding the awarding of the hosting rights of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar—as well as intense scrutiny surrounding working conditions in preparation for the event—there has been no indication that the Gulf nation will be stripped of the tournament. The world is preparing to turn its eyes to Qatar for the next edition of the World Cup, which is set to kick off on November 21, 2022.
 Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs. Justice Department Approves Remission of Over $32 Million in Forfeited Funds to Victims in the FIFA Corruption Case. Web. Aug. 24, 2021. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-approves-remission-over-32-million-forfeited-funds-victims-fifa-corruption  Reuters. Fifa crisis: Australian police agree to look into $500,000 paid to Jack Warner. Web. May 28, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/football/2015/may/29/fifa-crisis-australian-police-agree-to-look-into-500000-paid-to-jack-warner  Reuters. Costa Rica opens probes into arrested FIFA official Eduardo Li. Web. May 27, 2015. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-soccer-fifa-costarica/costa-rica-opens-probes-into-arrested-fifa-official-eduardo-li-idUSKBN0OC26X20150528.  Associated Press. Swiss Court Puts Qatari on Trial in Soccer Case Next Week. Web. Sept. 11, 2020. https://www.usnews.com/news/sports/articles/2020-09-11/swiss-court-puts-qatari-on-trial-in-soccer-case-next-week  BBC. Fifa: Fraud Office investigate money laundering claims. Web. Oct. 27, 2015. https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/34651591