Fam What Happened To The World Cup Tickets


 


Football is the world’s most popular sport with billions of followers around the world and cricket is a poor second because of the large following in the Indian subcontinent and Commonwealth countries.
Whenever big tournaments are held, legions of followers and supporters from around the world descend to the venues to watch their favourite stars in action.
As demand always outstrips supply, organisers and governing bodies make efforts to ensure that the fans, even from the smallest and remotest countries get a chance at the tickets instead of paying large sums of money to scalpers.
The governing body for football, Fifa, allocates tickets to all its 211 affiliates for the World Cup, the last of which was held in Qatar two years ago.
These tickets are meant for sale to fans in their respective countries and the quantity varies depending on various factors, including if that country qualifies for the final rounds.
Malaysia was one of the recipients of tickets but local fans never saw any of these tickets.
Instead, they had bought them online or from friends in other countries who had bigger allocations or even on the lucrative black market.
Malaysia was allocated a minimum of 250 tickets but England, which had qualified, got a bigger allocation.
A Malaysian fan who had heard about this sent messages to the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) requesting tickets but received no reply.
How the tickets allocated to the FAM meant for fans were distributed remains a mystery and no one wants to clarify.
For the past three months, I have been trying to get the FAM to explain how and to whom the tickets were sold.
It was a simple query to the FAM secretary Noor Azman Rahman: “I understand that it is a practice and policy of Fifa to allocate World Cup tickets to all its 211 affiliates and that includes the FAM.
“In this context, I would like to know how many tickets were allocated to FAM for the 2022 tournament in Qatar and if the tickets were made available to Malaysian football fans.
“If they were, I asked in a rejoinder, how was it carried out? Was there a public announcement, etc?”
Questions went unanswered
Despite several messages and reminders, Azman has not been forthcoming and has gone into silent mode despite initially saying he would respond.
The first message was on Jan 28 and the immediate response was: “Sure I will prepare the reply.”
That was the last I heard from him. Regular reminders were sent via WhatsApp with the last being on Monday, but no reply was forthcoming.
Malaysiakini has also reached out to FAM for comment but has yet to receive a response.
Why the fuss about a minimum of 250 tickets? It goes down to the core of integrity and honesty of those holding positions in sports governing bodies in every country.
In the book “Foul!”, renowned investigative journalist (the late) Andrew Jennings outlined how football officials were lining their pockets by re-selling the allocated tickets to selected travel agents.
In 2015, in what was then described as the biggest sports scandal, Swiss authorities arrested a string of officials on corruption charges in Zurich and opened criminal proceedings over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The Swiss authorities seized “electronic data and documents” in a raid on Fifa headquarters. Bank documents had earlier been collected from various Swiss financial institutions.
Arrests were made on behalf of US authorities, after an FBI investigation that had been underway for at least three years. The US Department of Justice charged 14 people including nine current or former Fifa executives.
Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, the respective presidents of Fifa and UEFA, were hit with suspensions after a recommendation from world football's ethics committee. Also suspended was former Fifa vice-president Chung Mong-joon.
Subsequent investigations resulted in the indictment of several officials - the most prominent of them being Jack Warner - who was president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) and a Fifa executive committee member.
Jack WarnerWarner was said to have taken all tickets allocated to Concacaf and passed them to his son, who sold World Cup travel packages from the Caribbean.
Warner fought extradition but his two sons, who held dual citizenship were arrested in the US and entered a plea-bargaining arrangement and spilled the beans.
How are these events connected with FAM and local football?
Despite its enormous wealth, FAM is partly funded by the public. As recently as January, it received RM5 million as a grant from the government.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who announced the grant said “based on the request by the youth and sports minister, the government has agreed to add RM5 million to the FAM to manage the national football team.”
Prime Minister Anwar IbrahimI am not in the least suggesting any wrongdoing by the FAM or its officials but there is this onerous duty to account for all their actions or inaction.
Neither am I suggesting an operation a la Warner, whereby the tickets ended up with a travel agent or a crony to be part of tour packages.
After all, the FAM is not a family business where details are made available to selected members.
It is a public body entrusted with governing football in the country and it is the organisation’s duty and responsibility to at least explain the mystery of the missing tickets.
In the governance of sports, transparency has become important, and it is the most frequently cited principle in good governance codes for national and international sports organisations.
It ought to be used as the main tool for evaluating the governance of sports organisations by the Youth and Sports Ministry and other related bodies.
I am not asking for details of the salaries and allowances paid to FAM officials. All I want to know is what happened to the tickets meant for us. - Mkini
R NADESWARAN is a veteran journalist who writes on bread-and-butter issues. Comments: [email protected].
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.


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