Crooked sports didn’t begin with FIFA or the World Cup. The truth is, the fix has been in since the beginning of time.
The first recorded example was Eupolos of Thessalia, who bribed three of his competitors in a boxing bout to take a dive during the Olympic Games of 388 BC. It must have been a big bribe, since one of those fudging the match was the formidable Phormion of Halikarnassos, the reigning champion.
Still, it seems no ancient example can stack up against the $30 billion-worth of corrupt dealings allegedly associated with the Winter Olympics in Russia’s Sochi resort earlier this year. Eupolos was doing it for personal, rather than national, glory. The stakes today have everything to do with national pride.
Half of the world’s men are likely to watch all or parts of the FIFA World Cup, which commence in Sao Paulo this week. The competition will garner $4 billion in total revenue for FIFA, the world football federation, most of that from television and marketing rights.
The world’s 20 richest football clubs made $7.4 billion in the 2012-13 season. At its upper reaches, the world’s most popular sport is awash with money. A lot of that is draining into the wrong hands.