“The council is very big, too big,” said Sylvia Schenk, chairwoman of the Working Group on Sport at Transparency International Germany, and a former adviser to FIFA. “That’s something independent from whether they have privileges or not.”
A majority of officials who attend the meetings — the next one is scheduled in Rwanda in October — rarely speak up, several members of the council said. Some have never spoken during a meeting.
Yet they enjoy the benefits just the same. When they are not attending matches at the World Cup, council members have access to the exclusive FIFA Club, a private space in the Lotte to which entry is carefully controlled.
There is no requirement that FIFA Council members must attend the World Cup, or stay for its duration. They haven’t had a meeting since the one a few days before the opening match on June 14. Some have stayed because they simply enjoy the sport. Others are here to cement relationships that might be politically useful down the road. And a few, perhaps like many people offered the choice, see it as a chance to enjoy an all-expenses-paid V.I.P. vacation, for which FIFA also provides a per diem (in the past, it was $500, and $250 for one companion).
It can sometimes be hard to spend the money. For FIFA officials, most aspects of life at the World Cup go on the organization’s tab, including clothing: A specialist tailor has been brought to Russia and will provide each official with a made-to-measure suit with FIFA embroidered in gold thread on the left breast.
Still, times are changing. A car and driver are no longer provided to officials, as they were in Brazil four years ago. There, the line was drawn when certain officials requested police escorts for shopping excursions.
In Russia, cars are provided from a pool, and often officials, except the most important ones, have to make their own way back — a hardship that some have complained about privately, according to interviews with their colleagues.