FIFA U.S. Senate Hearing Live: U.S. Soccer Grilled About FIFA Corruption Inaction

by

Jul 15, 2015

End of hearing: The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security hearing on FIFA has come to an a close.

Sens. Moran and Blumenthal led the charge against FIFA corruption, and Jennings has become somewhat of a celebrity in American soccer circles for his outspokenness in front of lawmakers.

U.S. Soccer faced some tough questions about its response to allegations of corruption at CONCACAF and FIFA through the years. The issue of pay disparity between men’s and women’s national teams also rose to the surface a few times.

Watch a replay of the hearing below.

That’s all for now and thanks for joining us. Let’s discuss this one on Twitter @NESNsoccer and Facebook. Be sure to keep an eye out for some news, fan reactions, analysis and opinion that is on the way on NESN.com.

4:23 p.m.: Sen. Moran appears to be set to close the hearing.

He says he only wants what’s best for U.S. Soccer and FIFA and promises senate help in the federation’s efforts to move on from the “unacceptable” status quo.

4:20 p.m.: Sen. Blumenthal says this hearing is just the beginning of an effort to clean up sports organizations, which have a responsibility to fans and participants.

He adds U.S. Soccer knew or should have known about FIFA and CONCACAF corruption and leaves it “up to the fans to judge.”

4:19 p.m.: Sen. Blumenthal asks Flynn about the pay disparity between men’s and women’s international soccer.

Flynn says compensation will be reviewed in U.S. Soccer’s after-action report. He expects pay for women’s players to increase in future competitions.

4:15 p.m.: Bery says FIFA can help stop human rights abuses around the world by considering this issue during the bidding process for future tournaments.

He calls out FIFA raising human rights issues in Qatar, accepting the country’s promises to improve conditions and then do nothing after learning of inaction on those reforms.

4:13 p.m.: Hershamnn adds widespread gambling has increased instances of match-fixing around the world.

4:10 p.m.: Hershmann says governments shouldn’t regulate sports organizations, but they should “set up a regulatory protocol” to push them to adopt best practices and standards in terms of governance.

4:08 p.m.: Flynn says U.S. Soccer would support an independent inquiry into FIFA’s scandals and vows to cooperate with any U.S. Senate action.

4:00 p.m.: Sen. Moran asks Jennings how the U.S. government can influence FIFA reform.

Jennings says U.S. Soccer shouldn’t ask permission to drive reform at FIFA, calling the need for permission from other countries “gutless.” He says U.S. Soccer should corral sponsors and media into the reform effort, and Western European counterparts and Australia would be among the countries that would follow.

Jennings stresses the need for U.S. Soccer to conduct an independent inquiry into its roles in the scandals at FIFA and CONCACAF.

Hershmann says basic good governance implementations wouldn’t have worked in cleaning up FIFA because of its leadership, but those reforms are necessary in the future.

3:54 p.m.: Sen. Blumenthal asks “is FIFA salvageable?”

Jennings says no praises the U.S. Dept. of Justice for assessing FIFA as a criminal organization and going after them.

Flynn says U.S. Soccer is encouraged by reform efforts so far (following the U.S. indictments of FIFA officials).

Blumenthal says U.S. Soccer’s silence or inaction in past, present and future wrongdoing equates to “complicity.”

Flynn says U.S. Soccer is committed to FIFA reform.

3:51 p.m.: Sen. Blumenthal wonders whether sponsors should have done and should be doing more to improve labor conditions in Qatar.

Jennings says of course they should. Bery adds they should play a “serious and constructive” role in improving the conditions many migrant workers face at construction sites.

Hershmann says sponsors are complicit in abuses when they partner with sporting organizations, which endorse such conditions.

Flynn says U.S. Soccer is happy with sponsor activism, which promotes improvement.

3:49 p.m.: Jennings says sponsors have had “attacks of blindness,” accusing them of not responding to previous allegations of corruption. Jennings said sponsors should withhold money until something “radical” happens at FIFA in terms of reform.

3:47 p.m:  Sen. Moran asks Flynn about U.S. Soccer’s decision to bid for the 2022 World Cup.

Flynn says U.S. Soccer’s support for Blatter’s presidential rival Prince Ali of Jordan could affect the United States’ chances of hosting future World Cup, given Blatter’s management style.

3:45 p.m.: Jennings says there’s no future for FIFA.

He then turns his gaze toward U.S. Soccer and CONCACAF, saying their talk about reform is empty. He calls U.S. Soccer “cowardly” for not taking on Warner.

3:38 p.m.: Sen. Moran asks Hershmann what how U.S. Soccer can learn about future wrongdoing at FIFA or CONCACAF earlier.

He says FIFA essentially is a “small clique” of high-ranking individuals, who practiced “systematic corruption.” He adds Blatter controls FIFA tightly, and wonders whether he truly will resign after a new presidential election.

Moran asks if Blatter’s departure is the best thing FIFA can do to clean itself up. Hershmann says yes, and his cronies also must go. He says FIFA’s culture can’t change unless its leaders believe in ethics and values.

Hershamnn says media outlets and sponsors can exert financial pressure on FIFA in order to drive cultural change, but they haven’t done so in response to previous and current scandals. He adds federations must force change from the bottom up. He also says governments must help drive positive change by influencing sports bodies to promote transparency and accountability.

3:30 p.m.: Sen. Klobuchar said the Senate will ask U.S. Soccer to pay the men’s and women’s national team players equally.

Flynn says players’ compensation is governed by separate collective bargaining agreements.

Klobuchar presses him on the pay disparity issue, saying “Wimbledon has done it.”

Klobuchar then asks why the 2015 Women’s World Cup was played on turf.

Flynn said Canada’s Soccer Association made that decision, with which U.S. Soccer disagreed. He adds the federation supported legal action by U.S. women’s soccer players on the turf issue, but they ultimately decided to endure paying on turf in order to win the tournament.

Klobuchar weighs in on pay disparity and FIFA corruption again, saying U.S. Soccer should use its influence on sponsors to add transparency to governance and pay women equally.

Flynn calls U.S. Soccer the “strongest advocate” of women’s soccer’s in the world. He says U.S. Soccer continues to push FIFA on these issues.

3:23 p.m.: Sen. Steve Daines asks what, specifically, brought “discomfort” to Flynn.

Flynn says the way Warner and Blazer ran meetings. He said U.S. Soccer couldn’t make positive reforms at CONCACAF (and FIFA) by taking them on because of the voting power of the 37-country Carribean Football Union, which holds significant sway.

Flynn alludes to negative consequences of blowing the whistle, especially in terms of hosting events.

Daines now asks Flynn why U.S. Soccer’s rate of spending has grown 50 percent in from 2013 to 2014, while expenditure on women’s soccer is down 13 percent.

Flynn response by saying U.S. Soccer pays its women’s player “by far” more than any other formation. He adds U.S. Soccer is pushing FIFA in the right direction. Flynn suggests U.S. Soccer spent more on the men’s team in 2014 because of World Cup activities.

Flynn adds U.S. Soccer shows also supports women’s soccer by “running” the National Women’s Soccer League.

3:12 p.m.: Flynn says he might excuse himself from discussions that make him “uncomfortable,” but can’t pinpoint a moment when he decided not to participate in wrongdoing. He says he never had any facts about corruption.

Flynn said U.S. Soccer only gained a “seat at the table” at FIFA when Gulati was elected to FIFA’s ExCo in 2013.

Blumenthal bluntly asks why U.S. Soccer didn’t act on allegations of wrongdoing until after May’s indictments were made public.

Flynn says he had no hard evidence, and that U.S. Soccer chose to remain part of FIFA’s 209-member organization rather than opt out. He adds a better course of action would be to help reform FIFA from within.

He adds U.S. Soccer decided to send him to the Senate, instead of Gulati, because he can speak better about the federation’s day-to-day operations than the federation president can.

Blumenthal asks if U.S. Soccer should do more to promote positive changes within FIFA. Flynn responds by pointing out U.S.-led reforms at CONCACAF as examples of the federation driving meaningful reform.

3:10 p.m.: Jennings said FIFA never should have awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and England never should have bid for the 2018 World Cup, knowing about rampant bribery on FIFA’s Executive Committee.

He says the public has known about racketeering at CONCACAF since 2002, but U.S. Soccer did nothing to investigate or stop it.

3:07 p.m.: Sen. Moran wants to know how much responsibility for human rights abuses FIFA must take after awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Bery responds FIFA must assume responsibility when it endorses Qatar.

3:03 p.m.: Sen. Moran asks Flynn what U.S. Soccer knew about Blazer and FIFA’s corruption and when it knew it. He also wants to know how U.S. Soccer reacted.

Flynn says he knew nothing regarding corruption within FIFA and CONCACAF. He adds Blazer hasn’t been involved with U.S. Soccer since 1986.

He adds U.S. Soccer had nothing to do with the sale of marketing and sponsorship rights for CONCACAF tournaments.

2:55: Jennings delivers his opening statement.

He calls out U.S. Soccer for not taking on FIFA and asks “where’s Sunil?” in reference to federation president Sunil Gulati.

He then says “FIFA ticks all the boxes” of an organized crime syndicate that hides behind soccer, referring to top FIFA officials like Chuck Blazer.

He says U.S. Soccer had information implicating Blazer in wrongdoing but looked the other way — perhaps in order to improve its prospects of hosting the 2022 World Cup.

He calls U.S. Soccer to ally with “nice” federations create a new governing body, pulling sponsors and broadcasters away from FIFA.

2:50 p.m.: Bery delivers his opening statement. He’ll speak about labor conditions in Qatar.

He speaks about Qatar’s “kafala” system, which ties migrant laborers to their employers by law, and the workers often live and work in harsh conditions.

He says Qatar has taken “limited action” in response to allegations of abuse and de facto slavery.

He says FIFA must tell Qatar to respect human rights, and soccer authorities must monitor and report on conditions and reforms.

2:44 p.m.: Hershman delivers his opening statement next.

He says the growing commercial interests, such as gambling, turn sporting bodies like FIFA into “big business,” making it difficult for sports organizations to regulate themselves.

He also says FIFA could have acted on corruption and bribery allegations when they first arose in the late 1990s, but its standards of transparency and accountability weren’t high enough.

He proposes a comprehensive list of reforms that could help sports organizations govern themselves better.

2:38 p.m.: Flynn, U.S. Soccer’s CEO since 2000, is the first expert to speak to the panel.

Flynn says U.S. Soccer is just one of 209 votes in FIFA but says it advocates better governance at the organization. He also called that pursuit more important than any “hosting of future World Cups.”

Essentially, Flynn said U.S. Soccer is a force for good at FIFA and CONCACAF.

2:35 p.m.: In his opening statement, Sen. Richard Blumenthal calls the FIFA bribery scandal a “mafia-stlye” crime syndicate that does disservice to the name “mafia” because indicted officials were so brazen about their actions.

He also says FIFA’s corruption scandal undermines soccer and wants to know “who knew what (and), when?” He poses the question to U.S. Soccer and wants to know its ideas for reforms.

He proposes reorganizing FIFA as a public corporation and shedding its non-profit status.

He then calls on sponsors and organizers to uphold human rights “wherever our athletes compete”.

2:30 p.m.: Sen. Moran delivers his opening statement. His explanation for the reason mirrors what he said a statement before the hearing:

“Soccer is by far the most popular sport in the world, and it is attracting a wider audience by the day in the United States,” Sen. Moran said in a statement. “Children across America and the globe look up to athletes as role models, and professional sports must be held to the highest standards. The recent revelations of bribery and mismanagement at FIFA should be of concern to us all. The organization’s culture of corruption is turning a blind eye to significant human rights violations and the tragic loss of lives. This hearing on the recent FIFA scandals will begin the discussion about our country’s own participation in the organization, ways the United States and our allies can work to reform FIFA, and how we can restore integrity to the game so many Americans and citizens of the world enjoy.”

2:30 p.m. ET: United States senators will have their say on FIFA’s governance in the wake of the ongoing corruption and bribery scandal, which has shaken world soccer’s governing body to its core.

The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security conducts an inquiry on FIFA on Wednesday, “Examining the Governance and Integrity of International Soccer,” the committee says on its website.

Experts will give testimony into FIFA’s practices. They include investigative journalist and filmmaker Andrew Jennings, Dan Flynn, CEO and secretary general of the U.S. Soccer Federation, Michael Hershman, president and CEO of the Fairfax Group and Sunjeev Bery, advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA.

Committe chairman U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) invited Sepp Blatter to testify at the hearing, but the embattled FIFA president declined to attend, Reuters reported Monday.

The hearing will scrutinize the impending changes in FIFA’s top office and labor conditions in Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup among other topics.

We’ll watch the hearing live and recount to you what transpires at the Senate Russell Office Building when the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security. You also can watch a live stream of the hearing as it happens (via Roll Call).

The hearing begins at 2:30 p.m.

Blatter’s exit meaningless without FIFA reforms >>

Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@cspan

Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant
Previous Article

Reports: Dez Bryant, Cowboys Agree To Five-Year Contract Worth $70M

Next Article

Danton Heinen Makes Good Impression On Day 2 Of Bruins Development Camp

Picked For You