Andrew Jennings, dogged journalist who exposed Fifa corruption that led to Sepp Blatter's downfall

Investigative journalist AndrewJennings has been a thorn in the side of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) for about 15 years and had been publishing articles, books and a BBC documentary about the deep-seated corruption in
Investigative journalist AndrewJennings has been a thorn in the side of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) for about 15 years and had been publishing articles, books and a BBC documentary about the deep-seated corruption in football's governing body for years. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

The arrest of football officials and resignation of Fifa chief Sepp Blatter that shocked the world this month was old news to investigative journalist Andrew Jennings.

He has been a thorn in the side of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) for about 15 years and had been publishing articles, books and a BBC documentary about the deep-seated corruption in football's governing body for years.

The 71-year-old dogged journalist, who has spent decades digging up dirt about criminal organisations, and now sports officials, also passed incriminating documents to US investigators over the past decade which started the ball rolling in the largest sporting scandal ever reported.

Here's how it all unfolded:

1. "Herr Blatter, have you ever taken a bribe?"

The revelations can be traced back to 2002, when Jennings confronted Blatter at a press conference after he was re-elected president of Fifa for the second time.

Jennings told the Washington Post that when Blatter finished his speech, he grabbed the microphone and blurted out a deliberately outrageous question: "Herr Blatter, have you ever taken a bribe?"

Blatter denied that he ever took a bribe, of course.

This was a provocative move aimed ostensibly at Blatter, but, really a message to all the Fifa employees at the event that if they had any incriminating information on Fifa's top dogs, Jennings was the one to look for.

Six weeks later, he got his first load of documents from a senior Fifa official.

Jennings said in an interview with ABC: "I'm at a midnight meeting in Zurich in a dark street and I'm pulled into a room and there's a guy with a whole load of documents."

2. A decade of revelations

The documents revealed that Blatter had been paying himself a secret, six-figure bonus. Jennings wrote about that, and the excesses of the executive committee, including Blatter's penchant for private jets.

For his efforts, Jennings was banned in 2003 from Fifa's premises, events and press conferences.

Blatter threatened to sue for defamation but never did.

In 2006, Jennings published a book exposing the shenanigans of several Fifa officials, including vote rigging, taking bribes for endorsements and sponsorship deals, and World Cup ticket rackets.

The book, Foul!: The Secret World Of Fifa: Bribes, Vote Rigging And Ticket Scandals, was followed by a BBC programme titled The Beautiful Bung: Corruption And The World Cup.

His latest book is Omertà: Sepp Blatter's Fifa Organised Crime Family (2014).

Jennings introduces the book thus: "In Omertà I show that the leadership of Fifa, under Brazil's João Havelange and now Sepp Blatter, tick all the boxes defining an Organised Crime Syndicate."

Havelange was Fifa's former president, preceding Blatter.

3. Meeting with the FBI

Jennings gained admirers, and through a mutual contact in British secret service MI6, some FBI agents approached him to help in their investigations against Fifa.

Jennings wrote in the Daily Mail: "One sunny day in 2009, I was ushered into an office block off Berkeley Square in Central London. I had been invited to a mysterious meeting by an intermediary who did work he rarely talked about. Waiting for me were three smartly dressed Americans, trim and fit. I learned later the team included ex-US Marines. So if they had to, they could kill.

"But today they are charming. One hands me his business card. He is a Special Agent in an Organised Crime Squad, based in Federal Plaza, New York. These were the people who brought down Mafia bosses Al Capone and John Gotti. They wanted me to help them nail Sepp Blatter and his Fifa rogues."

4. Book selling for US$1,700 (S$2,289) on Amazon

Now, there is renewed interest in Jennings' books on Fifa, which are out of print.

Foul!: The Secret World Of Fifa: Bribes, Vote Rigging And Ticket Scandals was selling for between US$470 and US$1,700 on Amazon on Thursday.

5. A lifetime of muckraking

Jennings is regarded as a leading investigative sports journalist today, but he learnt his skills from delving into organised crime and corrupt policemen in the 1980s.

His first book, published in 1989, was titled Scotland Yard's Cocaine Connection, and it details the "curious relationship between London's top detective and its top gangster".

In the 1990s, he turned to corruption in sports, and exposed corruption within the International Olympic Committee.

In the decade after, he turned his attention to Fifa. The Fifa scandal appears to be his magnum opus.

6. What next?

Jennings told the Washington Post he can retire soon knowing that his investigations led to real change.

"Then I can do my garden up here in the hills and play with my lovely children," he said, staring out his window at the English countryside, the US paper reported.

Investigative reporter Andrew Jennings asks then Fifa vice president Jack Warner how much profit he expected to make from World Cup tickets in in this video uploaded in 2009. -- VIDEO: YOUTUBE/ANDREW JENNINGS

chuimin@sph.com.sg

Sources: Amazon.com, BBC, The Guardian, Washington Post, www.transparencyinsport.org