It has been quite the month for Sepp Blatter, the former FIFA president, and Michel Platini, ex-french soccer captain, manager and former UEFA head. Both have been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons since accusations of corruption began in 2015. The soccer heavyweights were on trial on the 8th of June 2022 in a Swiss court, facing charges of defrauding FIFA.
Prosecutors alleged that Blatter and Platini were both involved in fraudulent activity. Blatter arranged to have FIFA pay Platini to the tune of 2 million Swiss Francs, roughly equivalent to $2 million, for services rendered to Blatter. However, prosecutors argued the invoice was forged, and Blatter knew this when signing off the payment.
Back in 2015, the two men were suspended after the FIFA Ethics Committee made a finding on the same matter. They had initially found that the payment violated FIFA ethics. Furthermore, they stated that there was no legal basis for the payment. Blatter’s version was that there had been a standing “gentlemen’s agreement” between himself and Platini, dating back to 1998 when Blatter asked Platini to assist him as his technical advisor.
In 2021, the same committee, Blatter and Jerome Vaicke, the FIFA Secretary General, found that both had participated in actions that could be construed as a conflict of interest.
The suspension made international news as it ended Blatter’s illustrious 17-year stint at FIFA, also effectively stopping Platini in his tracks while he was pipped to replace Blatter as the FIFA president. Platini stated that the allegations were designed to derail his effort to become the president of FIFA.
It is still unclear what the reason for the payment was; however, some speculate that it could have been to gain some support for Blatter’s reelection campaign back in 201. At the time, he was running against Mohammed bin Hamman of Qatar. At the time of Blatter’s campaign, Platini was the president of UEFA and could have manipulated the vote as he had considerable influence in his position.
On the 8th of July 2022, a Swiss Federal Criminal court cleared both men of the allegations. Platini stated that he and his family are thrilled with the outcome:
“I kept saying it: my fight is a fight against injustice. I won a first game.”
The case draws to a close before the World Cup 2022 commences. It will be the first time bettors in the US have legal access to bookies for a FIFA World Cup. Despite being the most popular sport in the world, it has never caught the imagination of US sports fans. It will test the popularity of soccer in the US to see if the legalization of online sports betting will increase the interest in the sport.
Bookies are already looking forward to this event, as soccer is a massive hit in sports betting globally. Soccer alone accounts for 51% of the global handle, according to a recent study by Sportsradar. Even more impressive is the revenue generated per match: it was found that a UEFA Champions League game saw on average a handle of €198 million per match. That is quite an astounding figure. US bookies will also like the hear that World Cup handles will surpass this figure.
The approval of US sports fans is of great concern as the next World Cup, to be held in 2026, will take place in North America, hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the US. The rules have also been changed for this tournament, as the pool of teams will increase from 32 to 48. Being quite a radical departure from the norm, the US will hope for massive support from fans when the World Cup is on their doorstep.
The world can only wait and see how US bettors will take to the World Cup in 2022. Will it be a win for legalized gambling and online bookmakers? Or will US sports fans defy all odds by not paying attention to the world’s most popular sport? Only time will tell.
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