Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Urs Linsi Mystery

Sigh. Why exactly do journalists allow FIFA to spout verifiable untruths with so little challenge?

I'm speaking here of the Urs Linsi (pictured) story, which I've been poking around the edges of for awhile now. Linsi was FIFA's finance director from 1999-2002. From 2002 to 2007, Linsi was FIFA's Secretary-General - a post once held by Blatter himself and often thought to be a launching pad for the top spot.

But Blatter's no fool. He'd already had one stroppy deputy (Michael Zen-Ruffinen) guillotined for having spoken out against the corruption within the Zurich-based organization. He therefore protected himself by saddling Linsi with a deputy by the name of Jerome Champagne who was much more in Blatter's image- a political smoothie who could ge the job done with either money or force.

Linsi's relationship with Blatter became strained as the former quarelled with Champagne. Andrew Jennings, in his book Foul! relates that Linsi, backed by six FIFA depratment heads, asked Blatter to fire Champagne on the grounds of his attitude and conduct towards FIFA staff and because the European and African confederations had complained of his interference of their affairs. Those would of course be the European and African confederations which accounted for well over 90% of the anti-Blatter votes at the last FIFA elections in 2002. Blatter backed Champagne, of course.

Linsi also made the mistake of butting heads with Blatter favourite Jack Warner over the World Cup ticket scandal in 2006 (an issue I touched on back here). Linsi put too many documents on the table for Blatter to exonerate Warner completely, but he did manage to avoid dealing Warner any punishment. Strike two against Linsi.

Now, Linsi is no saint - he has been caught up in some very nasty shit at FIFA, with police raiding his office in 2005 as part of their investigation into the collapse of sports marketing firm ISL. That case - in which cantonal prosectors in Zug are strongly believed to have evidence that ISL paid very large bribes to senior FIFA officials - goes to court next March. Since Linsi was finance director of FIFA at the time of the alleged bribery, it's quite likely he knows where some bodies are buried, and hence he has become a dangerous potential enemy.

It's not entirely clear why he was axed from FIFA back in June 2007. The FIFA press release talked about him "coming to the end of a five-year mandate", but this is clearly horseshit because there is no "term" to this position in the FIFA statutes. Moreover, if he was coming to the end of a natural "term" in June 2007, how was it that he was able to secure for himself a new contract in April 2007 in which he was guaranteed a major cash payout if his contract was terminated early. His severance pay two months later came to 3.6M GBP (about $7.5 Million US).

A payoff to make sure he plays nice at the trial next March? We can't be sure - but one would think that this would have to be the working assumption of any investigative journalist looking at the case.

Sadly, the Guardian's Paul Kelso proved himself to be as far from an investigative journalist as it is possible to be without actually leaving Earth orbit. This story intimates that Linsi pulled one over on FIFA Veep Julio Grondona, who negotiated the contract on Blatter's behalf while blithely unaware of the Blatter-Linsi feud and the latter's imminent demise. In the various stories being leaked to credulous journalists, Blatter and the executive committee are just sick - sick! - about this waste of money and are attempting legal means to get the money back even though they note with a heavy heart that this may be impossible.

Bullshit. Grondona is closer to Blatter than anyone at FIFA other than perhaps Jack Warner. The idea that he could sign such a deal without Blatter's sign-off stretches credulity. The idea that he didn't know about the Linsi-Blatter bust-up is even more preposterous: if Andrew Jennings could devote a sizeable chunk of his book's final chapter to the subject, it can't possibly have been a secret in Zurich. Whether consciously or not, Kelso's acting as a front for Blatter, and that is simply reprehensible.

I wish I could find out more, but I can't. Jennings, unfortunately, has allowed his intriguing website Transparency in Sport to lapse, meaning we've been deprived of a key eye on this issue. The good folks at Play the Game have had a bit of an eye on the issue, but their mandate is too broad to focus on a single issue like this.

Looks like we're going to have to wait for the Swiss courts to sort things out come next March.

Unless, Andrew, if you're still dropping by from time-to-time, you could enlighten us a bit...?


Anonymous kamagra said...

What can I say... smells like corruption of somekind... well actually I don't care, I have a life to live.
good luck

12:54 PM  

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