Yet another big name on the international soccer scene has seen their reputation destroyed. The Associated Press is reporting that Brazilian soccer official Marco Polo del Nero has been banned for life after being accused of “bribery and corruption” by a FIFA ethics committee. According to a FIFA statement, Del Nero, who has been both a FIFA executive committee member and a Brazilian Football Confederation president, was fined about $1 million, even as the US Department of Justice handed down an indictment alleging Del Nero played a key role in a massive bribery scandal that rocked FIFA. It’s not expected that Del Nero will be extradited to the United States to face trial on the bribery and racketeering charges, but he had other serious issues to deal with at home.
After other Brazilian colleagues were arrested on similar charges in Zurich during an international FIFA meeting, Del Nero fled in order to avoid arrest. One of those colleagues, Jose Maria Marin, has already been adjudicated guilty.
Del Nero had resigned from the FIFA ruling committee, hoping to avoid further consequences. He was initially suspended by the ethics committee pending an investigation, even as a growing number of fellow officials faced convictions and now await sentencing.
The lifetime ban handed down to Del Nero came after the ethics committed completed its investigation and found credible evidence that he had engaged in “bribery and corruption” by “offering and accepting gifts and other benefits…” in conjunction with several major tournaments including the Copa America and Brazil Cup. Meanwhile, even though Del Nero would not come to the United States, several witnesses were testifying to his deeds in open court. One such witness, Brazilian sports marketing leader, Jose Hawilla, said Del Nero was one of several top soccer officials who expected bribes to allow media to cover tournaments.
Meanwhile, Marin’s attorneys had classified their client as a figurehead, putting all the blame for the bribes and other illegal activity squarely on Del Nero’s shoulders. Del Nero’s attorneys allege there is absolutely no evidence against him, and they are considering filing a challenge appeal related to the FIFA ban. Regardless of what happens from a legal standpoint, Del Nero’s reputation in both Brazil and in the international soccer community has taken a huge hit. While it may be possible for him to extricate himself from this multi-layered PR crisis, it will take time, as well as excellent messaging to walk back the sting of the investigation and the subsequent ban.
Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5W Public Relations