House of Cards

angry birdAn often quoted definition of insanity by Albert Einstein is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

And put like that it would be hard to disagree with him.

But what about entering the lottery, with the same numbers every week? Or getting on the same bus, every morning?

Einstein’s theory only really works in situations where all the variables are fixed, like 17+13. No matter how many times you punch this into a calculator it will never equal 40. But if you throw in one variable, it might.

What if it was 17 + (the average temperature for that day)? One summer’s day it will equal 40, it might take a few years, especially if you are Scottish but it will, eventually.

The lottery has lots of variables and your number 19 bus will, in the ordinary course of events, take you from A to B at roughly the same time every morning, but it might not.

It might break down, it might be running late, you might meet the love of your life and just stay on. You might fall asleep and wake up in the depot.

Lots of variables, all of which can disprove the 20th century’s most eminent scientist’s theory.

But without being pedantic I get what he was meaning. You need to alter something if anything is going to change. You need to change the inputs. You need to vary things, try different things if you expect something to change.

Get the number 17 bus. Who knows what will happen, apart from being late to the office that is. Or just getting lost.

Eventually after years of suspicion, threats and in your face laughing FIFA seem to be changing. The old boys club which for years have managed to cling on to power just down the road from where I write this appears to be rapidly imploding.

Daily the revelations, claims and counter claims are being reported so most likely by the time I post this it will be superseded by some other fantastic and unfortunately true insight.

Things have moved on significantly in the six months since I wrote this last entry on FIFA.

At best it will turn out to be a laughable case of incredible financial miss management but its odds on that the corruption, bribes and lining of pockets we all assumed was going on will be proven to be true. If and when this happens I sincerely hope jail sentences are involved and then the beautiful game can return to being just exactly that.

I am a bit perplexed though that it has taken an investigation by the FBI to start this. Where have Scotland Yard been all these years or their equivalent in France, Germany, Spain or France? Why is a country who know nothing about sacker at the vanguard of this particular investigation?

It’s a little disappointing to say the least that we as a continent with all our resources and interest in the game were unable, or perhaps more worryingly unwilling, to go head to head with Sepp and his cronies.

The fallout from this will be wide reaching. I think it’s a fair assumption that the investigation into the financial records of FIFA will throw up a few oooh’s and ahhh’s along with a lot of choice swear words.

But FIFA is a company with billions of revenue. Companies like this are checked every year during their independent financial audit. The remit of such audits is to ensure the financial statements show a fair representation of the actual financial activities of such a company. They are also there to make judgements about the control environment and to raise red flags if there appears to be any suspicious transactions during the period they are auditing.

FIFAs external auditors are KPMG, one of the worlds remaining big 4 accounting firms. KPMG is not only the auditor for FIFA, it is also the auditor for the member associations around the world and was the auditor for the official Russia and Qatar organising committees.

In short KPMG has gained a lot of business from FIFA and thus FIFA is a very very important client for them.

A few years ago Enron was also a very important client for Anderson Accounting at a time when the big 4 accounting firms were the big 5. It became the big 4 after Anderson collapsed in the wake of the Enron scandal.

So if you forgive the pun have KPMG dropped the ball in regard to their independant financial reviews of FIFA? Now that the crack FBI are on the case I am sure over time the truth will out but even now I will find it hard to believe they haven’t.

Given the amount of revelations which have come out over the last few years I find it incredible that they found nothing untoward in the books of FIFA. Or were even concerned enough to look a little deeper into certain transactions. And if they did find something and did not flag it, raise it or raise any concerns about it then at the very best they will have been negligent in the execution of their duties. At worst complicit.

Either way I doubt we will be talking about a big 3 group of accounting firms any time soon but I can guarantee the tumbling of the FIFA house of cards will spread out like a tsunami and I would argue KPMG are slap bang in the path of the wave.

History is not a predictor of the future and Einstein’s quote is not entirely true.

But if history tells us anything, holding on to power for too long and continuing to assume the money will keep on flowing forever is nothing short of arrogant folly.

Had Sepp and his buddies stepped out five years ago this probably wouldn’t have occurred, the questions would have likely gone unanswered, swept under the carpet as documents were quietly shredded.

But they didn’t, they kept doing the same thing over and over again only now the outcome will be very different.

And if they thought it would end up any other way then they, are truly insane.

The Giant Slayer

fifaFee-fi-fo-fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman’. Said the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk.

It probably doesn’t matter much but if I was ever to meet the giant I would point out that the rhyme doesn’t actually work.

It would have to be either Fee-fi-fo-fun or English-mun. I would opt for the former as fum isn’t really a word so replacing it with fun wouldn’t have any impact on the construct at all. Actually come to think of it, adding fun might even improve it.

And Englishmun is worse than a non-rhyming poem.

The giant does recover it somewhat though as he successfully manages to rhyme ‘be he dead’ with ‘to make my bread’ but the beginning spoils the whole thing. In my opinion.

Even if I did tell him, I’m not sure the giant would change anything though. I hear they are notoriously difficult to persuade and he’s probably so stuck in his ways saying it the wrong way to not even realise his stupid schoolboy error.

And, of course, he’s now dead.

Slain at the hands of the simple minded, thieving Jack as he chased him down the beanstalk carrying a golden egg laying goose.

The goose which laid the golden eggs is, as we all know, a fable. To kill the golden goose, or in other words to engage in a short sighted action which destroys the profitability of an asset. In the fable the owner of the goose slaughtered it to get at the huge amount of gold which must be inside only to find it was a normal goose and thus losing any possibility of any more golden eggs.

In short, an action driven by greed.

Of course Jack was stupid to buy the magic beans in the first place. It was more luck than judgement that the beanstalk grew and he happened to end up with a magic goose and a self-playing harp. In any other circumstances the beans would have grown into a small bean plant and he and his mother would have died a horrible death as they slowly starved. Probably.

This wouldn’t make for good pantomime though. It ends with Jack and his mother living rich for the rest of their days but I find this fanciful given his stupid short sighted actions earlier in the story. The goose would have been slaughtered a couple of days later no doubt and they would sell their one or two golden eggs and live out their lives normally and modestly. Again, not good pantomime.

Speaking of pantomimes, about ten miles away from where I write this there is a sleek, modern, glass and steel office building. Sitting atop a hill overlooking Lake Zurich. Flags flutter and people quietly come and go. Its right next to Zurich zoo with its brand new mega sized elephant house and the subtropical Madagascar hot house. Crowds of people pass by the building, children excitedly skip along making monkey noises. Ice cream, hot dogs, strollers and backpacks.

Most of them pass by with only a fleeting glance towards the building. They all know what goes on behind the doors of the building but this being Switzerland most passers-by do exactly that. Quietly pass by.

It’s the headquarters of FIFA and I would contend that over the last week or so the monkey house during a red-arsed banana sex orgy would have seemed quiet and subdued in comparison.

It’s gone from bad to worse at Fifa and at some point soon I, along with everyone else, will become so weary of the soap opera we will become immune to it all. Like the church bells in Switzerland which chime every 15 minutes night and day eventually you stop hearing them.

Maybe this is what they want. Maybe they want us to just accept Fifa has the integrity of a Zimbabwean election and then get on with enjoying the world cup and ignore everything else.

The mistake they made, apart from the obvious; awarding the world cup to the great footballing nation of Qatar, was hiring Michael Garcia.

For a short time after his appointment, I actually thought Fifa were serious about wiping out corruption from within its gold lined corridors. He is an incorruptible, unbribable, bulldog of a lawyer with a broad, all access, remit to investigate the world cup bidding process. When asked by his daughter once what he did for a living he answered ‘I punish people who do bad things and break the law’.

Thats a line which could have come straight out of the script for Robocop. I like him.

So this was their mistake, before his appointment everyone was complaining about Fifa but nothing was happening. His appointment was made to address the complaints but it has had the opposite effect, the criticisms have multiplied exponentially.

Because he has done his job.

Because when the summary of his final report was published he stood up within three hours and openly said that the summary does not reflect the actual report.

Because he has the balls to stand up and say things no one else in Fifa would say out of self-interest.

He would turn up, unannounced to interview senior executive committee members and recently said that Fifa’s ethics code needed transparency and leadership.

An ethics code without transparency isn’t an ethics code.

And now he has resigned from his post of investigating Fifa because of a ’lack of leadership in the organisation’.

Fifa have now been forced to say they will publish a ‘legally appropriate’ version of the full report and I can’t wait to see what it says. To see if it sheds any light into how a country like Qatar could win the prize of hosting the biggest sporting event in the world.

I don’t know anyone at all who thinks this is a good idea, not one person. This is possibly because I don’t know any Qataris but still, it’s stupid, stupid, stupid.

Apart from being one of the wealthiest countries on the planet I cannot find any other, football related, redeeming qualities. I’m sure it’s a perfectly lovely place but the world cup? Ahead of Australia? Really?

Australia would have been perfect, summer time = winter time down there, the population will turn up in their hundreds of thousands to watch anything vaguely sporting related. Football needs a shot in the arm down under and the travelling hoards of fans would have a ball, if you forgive the pun.

No, Australia would have been perfect. Qatar, sorry to say Quataris, is just a joke.

Russia for 2018 is ok.

Aside from the current socio/political/economic issues I have no issue with Russia getting it. If the Rouble keeps dropping, interest rates keep rising and sanctions keep on getting tougher they might not be able to actually host it but giving them the chance is ok, in my view.

So absent of bribes I can’t see how the Qatar garnered any votes.

The funny thing here is Fifa have been forced to publish the whole report. It wasn’t done of their own volition, if it was respect might have slowly started crawling back up the hill in Zurich but it’s not.

Like the child who is forced to say sorry, it’s meaningless.

And even better still they have to publish the real report, not an amended version because if they did I am positive we would be hearing more from Robocop Garcia. The report might or might not contain something which is damming but just the fact they have strongly opposed its publication leads me to believe all is not right in the power halls of Fifa.

They are cornered with their backs against the wall and I for one would like to see the whole corrupt organisation, and building if needed, razed to the ground.

I once went for a job interview with a company who had some of the rights to sell television advertising broadcast during the world cup. I asked the obvious question; how long does the company have these rights and how likely is it they will be renewed? The interviewer just smiled at me and informed me the owner of the company was the president of Fifa’s nephew.

Football is the biggest sport on earth.

The world cup is the biggest celebration of the biggest sport on earth. It’s the most watched sporting event on the planet. The money generated from football is staggering. Fifa alone reports revenues of billions, not bad for a company who only are responsible for one thing which happens every four years.

Football is a sport which everyone enjoys, it’s a great leveller. It can be played by anyone, all you need is a ball. Young, old, rich or poor it’s a great game.

And it’s a real crying shame that its biggest showpiece is managed by a self-centred group of nepotistic, greedy, corrupt old men who will fight to the death to hold on to the power they barely deserve.

Fifa are slowly but surely killing the golden goose and I really really hope when the report is eventually published its incendiary and is the beginning of the end for the office just down the road from here.

Let’s blow it up and start again. Lets get the heads of each footballing nation together and create something new, take the football away from Fifa and its left with nothing. And there is nothing to stop this from happening regardless of the contents of the report.

Fifa’s reputation is so broken it cannot be fixed, it needs a complete overhaul but why would the current members vote for this. ‘I can’t wait for Christmas’ said no Turkey ever.

No, like the reports publication, Fifa will only do something when forced and the only way to do this will be to take the football, and thus the money, away from them. Then and only then will we see some sort of transparency at the pinnacle of the game we all love so much.

As for the building, it has so much glass it wouldn’t take much to create an enclosure out of it. You could even drop some magic beans in the garden and watch the giant who can’t rhyme come down and play with the committee members as they fight over whatever is left.

‘Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of Fifa’.

It still doesn’t rhyme but even as a tight Scotsman I would pay to watch that particular pantomime.

‘He’s behind you!’ the children will scream at the committee.

I bloody hope so.