I find sports commissioners and sports organizing bodies terribly interesting. I realize that sounds like an odd statement, but I really do mean it. There are not many organizations in the US or other democratic nations that can rule so unilaterally. Yes, the NFL and NBA, for example, are governed by a collective bargaining agreement, but outside of that, there are hardly any forms of checks and balances. Whatever the commissioner wants, generally happens. It’s with that in mind that we got to see two contrasting actions taken yesterday.
The first was done by the NFL and Roger Goodell. I have pilloried the Czar for how dictatorial his reign as commissioner has been. He’s doled out suspensions as he has seen fit, ignoring precedent or even consistency. Hell, he made a judgement on the Patriots’ spying scandal (I refuse to append -gate to every controversy) on evidence that only he saw; he then had said evidence destroyed. Somehow, that passed muster and no one seriously took Goodell to task.
It had appeared that the Saints’ bounty scandal was going to follow a similar form, but the NFL released its evidence, or at the least, a chunk of its evidence. I haven’t had a chance to pore through the documents yet, but that isn’t the important part to me. Goodell, like with the Patriots, meted out his punishment while everyone else was left in the dark. There were allusions and references to evidence, but there was never any evidence presented. Goodell finally took a step toward greater transparency which is a must for someone in that position of power within the NFL. There may be a furor over the content of the evidence, but at least now we all can get a better idea of what happened which will only allow for greater understanding.
While Goodell and the NFL seemingly took a step forward, the world of soccer continues to be baffling to both those who like it and those who despise it. FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, is corrupt. There’s no two ways around it. It’s worse than when dead people in Chicago voted in elections. I’ll put it this way, the World Cup in 2022 will be played in Qatar. This is a country that is in the middle of the desert. As a compromise, Qatari scientists are talking about seeding clouds that will sit over the stadiums to keep fans and players cool so they don’t die of heat exhaustion. Unless James Cameron is a funding member of this venture, it’s pure science fiction. Despite this ludicrous solution to the unbearable heat, FIFA awarded Qatar the World Cup due mostly to bribes, and probably not due to their plan for collapsible, movable stadiums.
UEFA is cut from a very similar cloth. It’s the governing body for European soccer. Think of it as a state house of representatives to the US house of representatives. The European Championships are ongoing and as such there have been a few newsworthy items. There has been fan violence between Polish and Russian supporters as well as bouts of racism. Despite all that horror, it seems UEFA is most concerned with a dude’s underwear. Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner lifted his shirt up part way after scoring a goal to reveal briefs with a “Paddy Power” band. This served as an advertisement/sponsorship of the Irish bookmaker who is not one of Euro 2012′s official sponsors. This means that Bendtner was fined 100,000 Euros, while the Russian FA was fined only a third of that (30,000 Euros) and the Poles were fined a meager 4,000 Euros. Something is clearly out of whack, but since there is no oversight, UEFA can pretty much act as it sees fit.
Sports organizations wield a lot of power due to the vast sums of money they effectively control. With that power, we can only hope the organizations are fair and transparent. It appears the NFL is taking steps towards that, while soccer, as always, becomes more and more opaque.