The man who dug up the dirt on Fifa’s sleazebags

Andrew Jennings
Andrew Jennings

HE SAYS he is the only reporter ever to be barred by Fifa president Sepp Blatter – yet veteran investigative journalist Andrew Jennings wears it as a badge of honour.

No more so than this week when the grizzled Briton went before a US Senate subcommittee in Washington scrutinising Fifa and the litany of corruption allegations convulsing football’s world governing body.

Jennings‚ who has made a long and fruitful career out of ruffling feathers‚ has spent 15 years pursuing Blatter and other top football administrators.

So he made no effort to hide his glee when US authorities in May charged 14 football officials and sports marketing executives over more than $150million (R1.8-billion) in bribes.

Blatter was not among them‚ but shortly afterwards the man synonymous with Fifa largesse said he would step down — not that Jennings thinks the Swiss has any intention of doing so.

Jennings‚ revelling in the opulence of his surroundings and with all eyes on him‚ did not miss the chance to twist the knife further into Blatter and company on Wednesday.

The star witness – who had flown in from Britain – branded Fifa “sleazebags‚” “low lifes” and “a smelly shell”, his broad British accent incongruous in a room full of Americans.

He may have helped bring Fifa close to its knees‚ but Jennings‚ an author who has also made TV documentaries, had a long and varied journalism career before.

And Fifa is not the first sports body he has gone after‚ having helped expose corruption at the International Olympic Committee in the 1990s.

After that he had Fifa firmly in his sights and he described on Wednesday how he had experienced attacks on his computers and legal threats‚ and how he met US special agents who wanted to know what evidence he had of alleged Fifa wrongdoing.

“I was not alone any more‚ the real people had arrived‚” he said. He handed over financial documents and other papers about Chuck Blazer‚ he said‚ at one point the most powerful man in North American football and a key Blatter ally.

Blazer is now disgraced‚ facing prison time and banned from football for life after admitting to US investigators that he took more than $11-million (R135-million) in bribes from 2005 to 2010.

He may be in his 70s now‚ a grandfather and his hearing not what it was‚ but Jennings shows scant sign of slowing down – or of being in the slightest bit concerned at making more enemies.

Also in his crosshairs on Wednesday was the US Soccer Federation (“massive‚ massive deficiencies”) and its absent president‚ Sunil Gulati‚ who is also a top Fifa executive.

“I note the absence of your Fifa delegate Sunil Gulati‚” Jennings said in the direction of US soccer head Dan Flynn‚ another giving testimony‚ his tone rich in irony.

– AFP

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