Big cheers are in order for the U.S. Justice Department crackdown on alleged corruption in FIFA, soccer’s international governing body.

Regardless of how one feels about soccer, the United States is asserting moral authority over an organization that has brought shame for years to a great sport.

No institution on Earth reaches across as many borders and into as many hearts as soccer. Yet the sport has long been tainted by overt and seemingly intractable cronyism at its highest levels.

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it has charged 14 FIFA officials with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering related to decades of bribery and kickbacks.

Defendants include executives at the Switzerland-based organization, and current and former presidents of its U.S.-based affiliate, CONCACAF, which governs soccer in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Victims range from youth leagues to developing countries that should benefit from the staggering revenue FIFA generates – $5.7 billion from 2011 through 2014, mostly from broadcast and licensing deals. Also harmed are fans everywhere, whose support makes FIFA’s commercial rights valuable, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

America’s leading role in tackling soccer’s problem and calling for ethical governance will resonate throughout the world, from war-torn villages in Syria to the forests of South America and the surging cities of China.

It also sends a strong message to other sports organizations rolling in money and potentially tempted by influence peddling that they, too, will be held accountable.


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