Andrew Jennings: British Investigative Journalist Exposed Bribery in Internationals Sports

From a Washington Post obit by Phil Davison headlined “Andrew Jennings, reporter who exposed corruption in international sports, dies at 78”:

Andrew Jennings, a leading British investigative journalist who exposed multimillion-dollar vice and bribery in the upper echelons of two of the world’s biggest sporting organizations — the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), died Jan. 8 at a hospital in Carlisle, near his home in northwest England.

Memorably unkempt, with a scruffy dress sense that made the rumpled TV detective Columbo look suave, Mr. Jennings was nonetheless considered one of the finest investigative reporters of his generation. The Washington Post once described Mr. Jennings, whose reporting also targeted London’s police force and the Italian mafia, as a combination of Watergate journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein rolled together, with “a touch of a Scottish burr and plenty of flannel.”

“If you had to put only one name to the revolution of the international sports debate over the past 30 years, if you could choose only one person to embody the growing public awareness about the economic and political abuse of sport, of athletes and of fans, that name and that person would be Andrew Jennings,” Jens Sejer Andersen, international director of Play the Game, an organization promoting ethics in sport, has said.

Mr. Jennings’s investigative books and TV documentaries helped lead to the downfall of two of the most powerful figure in sports — IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, of Spain, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter, from Switzerland. He had found out that Samaranch supported the fascist forces of Gen. Francisco Franco during the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War, had been photographed giving the fascist-Nazi right-arm salute and had led the IOC for 20 years with a combination of corruption, greed and mismanagement.

After Mr. Jennings published books about IOC corruption, starting with “Lords of the Rings: Power, Money and Drugs in the Modern Olympics” (1992), co-written with Vyv Simpson, both authors were given suspended five-day jail sentences by a court in Lausanne, Switzerland, for “defaming the IOC.” Mr. Jennings followed up with two other books uncovering corruption in the Olympic body, including “The Great Olympic Swindle” (2000, written with his partner and frequent co-author Clare Sambrook).

Those books helped throw light on the so-called Salt Lake City scandal involving allegations of bribes used by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to win the 2002 Winter Olympics. Samaranch was eventually forced to resign in 2001. By then, Mr. Jennings had moved on to his next target, FIFA, the governing body of world soccer.

During an interview with The Post in 2015, Mr. Jennings, from his English farmhouse in Penrith, described then-FIFA President Blatter as “a dead man walking.”

“They are criminal scum, and I’ve known it for years,” he added. “And that is a thoughtful summation. That is not an insult. That is not throwing about wild words. These scum have stolen the people’s sport, the cynical, thieving bastards. So yes, it’s nice to see the fear on their faces.”

Hours later, Blatter resigned.

Mr. Jennings had first set his sights on Blatter in 2001, three years after he took over as FIFA president from longtime head João Havelange of Brazil. At a news conference in Zurich, Mr. Jennings grabbed a microphone and — to the shock of Blatter, other FIFA officials and journalists who tended to cozy up to and accept gifts from FIFA — asked with conspicuous volume: “Mr. Blatter, have you ever taken a bribe?”

The FIFA boss blurted out a denial and hastened from the room, but Mr. Jennings had smashed the sanctity of FIFA news conferences. What’s more, he had dropped an unmistakable hint to disgruntled lower-ranked FIFA staff to come to him as whistleblowers.

A few weeks later, an anonymous caller told Mr. Jennings to be at an office block in Zurich at midnight. There, a senior FIFA official handed him what Mr. Jennings called “a wonderful armful of documents” showing that FIFA was being run more like the mafia than a sports body.

The documents revealed that FIFA executives had been pulling in tens of millions of dollars in return for TV rights and sponsorship deals. The lucrative assignation of World Cup soccer venues depended on the highest bidder.

Mr. Jennings’s 2007 book “Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-Rigging and Ticket Scandals” revealed widespread corruption. He showed that, in return for voting for Blatter as FIFA president, officials from national soccer federations around the world received bribes, advertising and TV rights, priority in choosing tournament venues, and huge allotments of World Cup tickets that they could sell for profit.

Blatter, who survived in the job until 2015, was indicted in Switzerland but never convicted, although the new FIFA regime barred him from involvement in world soccer and fined him 1 million Swiss francs for granting himself huge bonuses over the years.

In 2009, Mr. Jennings got another anonymous phone call, although this time the caller had a distinctly American accent.

When he showed up at an office in London, as asked, his hosts turned out to be from the FBI and the IRS, looking for evidence against FIFA. Mr. Jennings handed over documents dealing with corruption involving FIFA and the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football.

The U.S. Justice Department indicted nine FIFA executives and five business associated for racketeering and money laundering, including Trinidad and Tobago politician Jack Warner, a former FIFA vice president and close ally of Blatter. Warner had once pushed and threatened to spit at Mr. Jennings while the latter was trying to interview him.

Edward Arthur Andrew Jennings was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, and grew up in the London area. He attended the University of Hull in England and worked at the Burnley Evening Star before he joined the Sunday Times as part of its Insight team of investigative reporters.

During the 1980s, Mr. Jennings investigated cocaine trafficking and mafia murders in Sicily. By 1986, he was working for BBC radio’s “Checkpoint” series, where charged that corrupt police officers at Scotland Yard were involved in drug smuggling. When the conservative BBC pulled the plug on the program, Mr. Jennings quit and wrote the book “Scotland Yard’s Cocaine Connection” (1990) with two other journalists. An accompanying TV documentary appeared on “World in Action,” a program airing on the BBC rival ITV.

In 2015, Mr. Jennings had a stroke while visiting New York, and he retired to his property in Penrith….

Speaking to aspiring investigative journalists at a 1997 conference of the Play the Game organization, Mr. Jennings spoke of his personal credo: “When the pack of reporters go in one direction — go in the opposite direction. Avoid the crowd, stay away from the mob of quick turnaround news-bite reporters, and go away and dig until you think you are getting to some truths.”

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