Let the cheers ring out. Sepp Blatter is not corrupt after all.
Let's hear it for the Swiss prosecutors who determined on Thursday that the president of world soccer's governing body, who is a Swiss citizen, did not cook the FIFA books or hide the facts.
Hooray for Sepp.
But before cheering too loudly, this might be a good time to point out to the president of FIFA that although his own financial maneuverings have been found to be aboveboard, soccer worldwide is sinking in a sea of red ink.
Bankruptcies, unpaid wages, defaults on loans, unmet bills, strikes, salary caps -- all these make for a sorry tale as 2002 draws to a close.
Unless something is done about it soon, the international soccer landscape is going to look a lot different before much longer. It will be littered with the corpses of once-proud teams.
Never mind that Real Madrid could afford to buy Ronaldo for $46 million and change this year, or that the European Champions League raked in more fans and money than ever before.
The plain fact is that from Colo Colo to Kaiserslautern and from Lazio to Leicester City, famous and not-so-famous teams, some with a century or more of tradition behind them, are on the economic ropes.
Costs have skyrocketed and income, especially from television, has dropped off a cliff.
As a result, the financial woes facing many teams are becoming as much of a story worldwide as the games they play. And that's too bad.
Shortly before Blatter was absolved in a case brought by some of his fellow movers and shakers in Zurich, Adriano Galliani, president of the Italian soccer federation, warned that some Italian clubs might go out of business in the next three years unless they find a way to control spending.
A report in the Avvenire newspaper showed that the league's 18 Serie A clubs spend $751 million a year on player salaries, an amount equal to 88% of their annual turnover.
Inter Milan, with a salary budget of $118 million, AC Milan, with $107 million, and Juventus, with $103 million, were the biggest spenders. Of the 18 clubs, only Juventus made a profit last year.
"Many clubs risk not surviving the next three years," Galliani told Avvenire. "Club directors are partly to blame, but the moment has come for the players to understand and come to new agreements, otherwise many of them risk seeing their contracts only on paper."
And no sooner had that gloomy news been digested than there was more of the same from England, where Manchester United's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, suggested in a BBC radio interview that perhaps it was time for England's 92 professional clubs to be halved.
"Quite clearly, I don't think we can have four divisions of professional football any longer," Kenyon said. "There are too many clubs. That's not to say they can't all exist, but they can't all be professional and that has to be reviewed."
Kenyon did not suggest, of course, that the Reds, who are very much in the black, be one of those clubs reduced to amateur status.
More bad news came from Germany, where 102-year-old Kaiserslautern is facing possible bankruptcy. It needs about $20 million to pay back taxes, allegedly because of financial irregularities by former club officials.
Earlier this season, Kaiserslautern sold the rights to German World Cup striker Miroslav Klose to a regional lottery company for $5 million simply because it needed the cash.
If the situation is bad for the big clubs, it is far worse for the small ones, and not all of them will have the good fortune that came Barnsley's way last month.
Barnsley, which traces its history to 1887, was on the brink of closing its doors. But Peter Doyle, a retired businessman and the town's mayor, stepped in at the last minute and bought the second-division club.
"It is an investment in the town that I love," Doyle said. But he warned that it would take more than a new owner to save the club.
"If you open a corner shop and there's nobody coming in, are you going to keep it open?" he asked. "This is the real world. We need fans to come through the gate to go forward. We can't do it on our own. The days of people buying football clubs for a novelty are in the past.
"It's got to be an effort for the town. We've got the body breathing again. I am going to put every hour that God sends into making sure we get it right."
Barnsley's troubles are, hopefully, over, but there are hundreds, probably thousands, of clubs worldwide that are in financial jeopardy, and not because they splash out $118 million a year on player salaries, as does Inter Milan.
Barnsley, for example, was about to fold because it couldn't meet total debts of no more than $5 million.
It is not FIFA's responsibility, naturally, to bail out clubs or leagues economically. Even the gnomes in Zurich can't come up with enough money to do that.
But it is FIFA's duty to help the sport put its financial house back in order by whatever means can be found. The game should not be bled dry by the few. What wealth there is in soccer needs to be distributed more equitably.
There should be accountability before it becomes necessary to call in the accountants.
Accomplishing that requires leadership.
Now that Blatter no longer has to worry about being prosecuted, perhaps he and his FIFA cohorts will find the time to exhibit some.