Andrew Jennings, outstanding reporter who exposed corruption at the International Olympic Committee and toppled Fifa’s Sepp Blatter – obituary


Almost manic in his pursuit of wrongdoing, Jennings endured the inevitable beatings. In 1994, he and his co-author Vyv Simson were sentenced to five days’ suspended prison terms by a Swiss court for defamation of Samaranch in The Lord of the Rings. Nonetheless, Jennings came back with a follow-up, The New Lords of the Rings (1996), in which he exposed corrupt practices in international sports federations and the IOC, and brought charges of medal fraud and cover-up at the 1988 Olympics. His mantra, short and blunt, was “Get the documents!”

“If you had to give a single name to the revolution in the international sports debate of the past 30 years, if you could pick just one person who embodied the growing public awareness of the economic and political abuses of sport, athletes and fans, then that name and that person would be Andrew Jennings,” said Jens Sejer Andersen, international director of sports integrity campaign group Play The Game, with which Jennings worked.

After his first book on the Olympics, Jennings was banned from IOC events and worked alone on the second. In his third book, The Great Olympic Swindle (2000), written with his partner Clare Sambrook, Jennings exposed corruption and bribery behind the awarding of the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City.

He accused the bid team of concealing illegal payments of $1 million (£680,000) to members of the IOC on “fact-finding” trips to Utah. Jennings’ book told lurid tales of cash-filled envelopes changing hands and free vacations and bursaries for parasite delegates.

“If this latest investigative team were a novel, it would be said to have stretched the plot beyond the expenses of a misguided delegate,” observed Paul Hayward in the Telegraph. “But oh no. Jennings stands by every word he wrote about bribery, sex, drug cover-ups and organized crime.” By the time Samaranch was finally forced to resign in 2001, Jennings had moved on to his next target, Fifa.

Six weeks after he asked Blatter his inflammatory question about bribes, an anonymous official handed Jennings a stack of compromising documents and contacts at a secret midnight meeting in Zurich, Fifa headquarters. Although his subsequent book Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribery, Vote Manipulation and Ticketing Scandals (2006) earned him a ban from Fifa events and a spate of legal threats, which Fifa never sued him for.

Jennings researched and presented a series of BBC panorama documentaries about Fifa that caught the attention of investigators from the US Internal Revenue Service and the FBI in 2009. Blatter was forced to retire in 2015, and Jennings did his final panorama, summarizing 15 years of investigations in an issue titled Fifa, Sepp Blatter and Me. During filming in New York, he suffered a stroke that affected his ability to work.

The son of a headmaster, Edward Arthur Andrew Jennings was born on 3 September 1943 in Kirkcaldy, Fife, when he was a child the family moved to London. At Watford Technical High School, he studied at Hull University, but instead of pursuing a degree in social administration, he researched the 1968 Hull triple trawler disaster, when three boats sank within as many weeks and 58 people died. His findings led to his first job as a journalist with the Burnley Evening Star.

After a stint on the Sunday Times Insight team, Jennings joined Radio 4’s Checkpoint programme, where she covered cocaine dealing and murders by the Sicilian Mafia, reporting on police corruption and consumer fraud. On television, Jennings caused a stir in 1983 when he interviewed Sir Freddie Laker on Nationwide, urging him to explain his reappearance in the holiday business with Skytrain following Laker Airways’ collapse a year earlier. Laker got up and walked out.

“When kids ask me what exactly I do,” Jennings explained, “I answer that I chase down bad people for a living.”


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