ZURICH, Ch. – Following the indictment of over fourteen FIFA officials last week by the U.S. Department of Justice, FIFA president Sepp Blatter resigned as head of the organization on Wednesday amid a firestorm of corruption charges. Speculation as to who might take the reigns of the multi-billion dollar international football organization left some wondering if a female president might be able to reverse the organization’s troubled image.
Isha Johansen of Sierra Leone is one of two female football association presidents, a minority among FIFA’s 209 member countries. Johansen spoke to CNN Wednesday about the possibility of leading the organization, saying, “Yes, it would be wonderful wouldn’t it – but I might decide to do something else.” Johansen said she has learned a lot throughout her years of involvement with football but doubts she’ll enter the election. The Sierra Leone native said the office of the presidency is a position that must be earned, adding, “I would hate for people to think I am where I am because I’m a woman.”
Still, the possibility of FIFA’s first ever female president could become a reality; U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who spearheaded the operation to bring down FIFA’s corrupt leadership, has accepted a nomination for candidacy by the United States, England, and Mauritania. In her acceptance speech, Attorney General Lynch said she aims to “Americanize soccer” while bringing a female perspective to the sport. Lynch said under American leadership, FIFA will undergo a vast “re-branding effort that will reflect American values and sportsmanship while maintaining some of the more traditional aspects soccer fans around the world have come to love.”
Among Attorney General Lynch’s list of proposed changes is a plan to increase corporate sponsorship for football, a move that would dramatically increase profits for FIFA. Classified as a non-profit organization, FIFA reaped over $2 billion in profits in 2014 alone. With additional corporate sponsorship, including the implementation of paid advertising during live broadcasts, a move that would lengthen overall airtime and allow athletes the opportunity to take water breaks, experts believe FIFA could double or even quadruple its profits in the coming years. “Should Mrs. Lynch win the election, we could see FIFA surpass the NFL in terms of annual revenue,” CNN’s global economic analyst Paula Caton told Wolf Blitzer Wednesday. The National Football League brings in an estimated $9.5 billion a year, making it the most profitable sports organization on earth.
Additionally, Lynch plans to boost the role played by women in football by creating a worldwide cheerleading league, to be wholly financed and owned by FIFA, with each of its 209 member countries responsible for training and maintaining their respective squads.
Despite ongoing efforts by the Department of Justice to bring a slew of charges, including bribery and racketeering, against corrupt FIFA officials, the United States is offering any country who pledges unwavering support for Attorney General Lynch a guaranteed economic and military aid package valued at $20 billion. Already, a host of nations, including Tunisia, Bahrain, and Zimbabwe, three countries with a long history of human rights violations, have pledged allegiance to Lynch’s bid for the FIFA presidency.
Sepp Blatter, who served as FIFA’s president for seventeen years before announcing his resignation this week, will remain the head of the organization until a new election is held to determine his replacement. The 79 year-old Swiss citizen holds a degree in business and economics from the University of Lausanne. He was elected into office for the first time in 1998 and was later reelected three times, first in 2002, then, unopposed, in May of 2007, and finally, for his now final term in 2011.