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Who is Chuck Blazer – the FIFA official who turned whistleblower?

chuck-blazer_FIFA - SPORT

FIFA, The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, oversees the moist popular sport in the world, giving it annual revenues of $1.3 billion. With that much money at stake, it may come as no surprise that the international organization is presently being rocked by a scandal involving charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering. High ranking officials and corporate executives have been indicted. At the center of the controversy is Chuck Blazer, a man whose personal story and his involvement in the affair reads like a paperback novel.
Like his story, Blazer is larger than life. A Santa Claus look alike with a round face, broad smile, unruly grey curls, and a grey fringe of a beard. Twenty-five years ago, he was in the same condition as American soccer; unemployed, debt-ridden, and unpopular. Soccer was not televised and as such, was not profitable. He worked his way up quickly and helped the Major League Soccer win its first real television contract, a precedent that has led to today’s reality in which the league has signed a $720 million television deal. Soccer is now the second most played sport in America, after basketball.
In 1989, Blazer convinced Jack Warner to run for president of CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) . Blazer managed Warner’s successful campaign and was then appointed General Secretary. Blazer, a native New Yorker, knew how to work the angles of a deal and had in his contract an agreement to pay Blazer’s company a 10 per cent cut of a variety of sponsorship and TV rights fees. He was nicknamed ‘Mr.Ten Percent’, but that clause earned him $15.3m in commission from sponsorships, sale of TV rights, ticket sales and a host of other deals from 1996 until 2011, during his term as General Secretary. He had turned soccer into a money maker and had profited along the way.
Blazer helped organize the Gold Cup, the Confederations Cup, and the Club World Cup, tweaking them, making them popular, and converting that popularity into profit. He became the first American to sit on the executive committee of FIFA, which, at the time, was losing money. Blazer convinced the committee to take control of its own television rights and FIFA began making money. And thanks to his ten-percent clause, when soccer made money, Blazer made money. He has made an estimated $21 million from the game.
It all began to come apart in 2012 when CONCACAF began a probe of Blazer. The investigation concluded that he had committed fraud against the confederation, misappropriated its funds while breaching fiduciary responsibility, violated the FIFA ethics code, and broke U.S. tax laws.
As meteoric as his rise was, so was his fiery descent. Crime does pay, but only until you get caught. Blazer failed to pay income taxes for more than a decade while taking in tens of millions of dollars. Federal prosecutors, FBI, and the IRS used this to threaten him with prosecution and turned him into a cooperating witness beginning in 2011. The investigation is ongoing.



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