FIFA files criminal complaint over funding of €459m world football museum

Football's world governing body FIFA has filed a criminal complaint over what it describes as "criminal mismanagement" of the World Football Museum project in Zurich.

The project was first announced by disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2012 and the attraction opened its doors in February 2017 at a cost of around CHF500m (€459m, £415m).

The 3,000sq m (32,300sq ft) museum is part of a larger development which includes luxury apartments, a restaurant, a sports bar, a shop, FIFA office space and a conference centre.

The museum was hoping to welcome around 250,000 visitors annually – around 21,000 visitors a month. However in its first year the museum is only drawing 11,000 a month – 132,000 a year.

Following an investigation by "external experts", FIFA's legal complaint accuses FIFA’s former management – including Blatter – and companies appointed by them, of mishandling the project.

FIFA claims that the previous administration, led by Blatter, poured CHF140 (€128m, £116m) into renovating and refurbishing a building that the organisation doesn’t own, while also locking itself into a long-term rental agreement on unfavourable terms when compared to standard market rates.

In total, the arrangement is expected to cost FIFA CHF 360m (€330m, £290m) by the date of expiration in 2045.

"That is half a billion Swiss Francs that could and should have been channeled into the development of global football," said FIFA deputy secretary general Alasdair Bell.

“An audit revealed a wide range of suspicious circumstances and management failures, some of which may be criminal in nature and which therefore need to be properly investigated by the relevant authorities.

"We came to the conclusion that we had no choice other than to report the case to state prosecutors, not least because the current management of FIFA also has fiduciary responsibilities to the organisation and we intend to live up to them, even if those before us dismally failed to.”

• Sports Management interviewed the museum's then managing director Stefan Jost in 2016. To read the interview, click here for Sports Management Issue 117 (April 2016).

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