As FIFA looks to reform its corrupt ways and install new leadership that doesn't run the organization as a crime operation, a candidate to lead the governing body is facing a probe over accusations of unethical payments to foreign countries.
Chung Mong-joon spent 17 years as a member of FIFA's executive committee before leaving the organization in 2011. During that time, he made payments to Haiti and Pakistan that he deemed "charitable donations" aimed to assist in disaster relief when earthquakes hit those countries.
As FIFA launches an investigation into whether the payments violated any laws or FIFA regulations, the South Korean billionaire issued a statement that defended the payments while slamming the investigation. Via Reuters: "We condemn this as a cynical and unethical effort by FIFA to misrepresent even charitable donations for political manipulation."
Chung was quick to attribute the spending to specific events that needed disaster relief, which means it's entirely plausible that the money was sent legally and with good intentions.
That's the good news for Chung. The bad news? It sounds like he's completely detached from what's going on with FIFA.
FIFA, as many know, is deep in the throes of a multi-national sting in which the United States seized more than $150 million in cash and assets, while indicting 14 officials. President Sepp Blatter, a notoriously stubborn man, made the decision to resign in the wake of the scandal.
The current state of FIFA doesn't just validate cynicism -- it requires such a questioning approach. A good strategy to identifying and eliminating fraud within an organization is to be skeptical of any financial transactions, particularly the exact type that was the linchpin of so many fraudulent actions the past two decades.
As someone who wants to be elected president of FIFA as it tries to recover from years of institutional fraud, Chung, you would hope, should at least understand why the Ethics Committee is looking into his spending.
The fact that he sees due diligence in reviewing ethical practices as an "unethical" course of action is very concerning, and perhaps a greater red flag about the Hyundai executive than anything we concretely know about him to this point.
At the same time, Chung has reason to be skeptical of FIFA's motives with the investigation. In announcing his candidacy earlier this week, Chung slammed Blatter and UEFA head Michel Platini, who is also running for the FIFA presidency.
Blatter issued a statement that he was "disturbed" by Chung's criticism. Maybe that's because Chung's time as an executive committee member coincides with the peak of FIFA corruption, judging by the investigations that have since brought down so many of FIFA's influential members.
Chung believes Blatter will try to sabotage his campaign, and that may well be true. But where the candidate could assert himself as a stable presence in a chaotic FIFA debacle, he almost immediately turned to name-calling and an overly defensive stance.
Blatter's FIFA will not be the barometer for what's ethical and unethical, and Chung should know that. Instead of rising about the mess, he dove right in. For the next potential leader of FIFA, that's cause for concern.