- Rest of World
|FIFA Crisis Part 4: The wrap up|
In this final article of the FIFA crisis mini-series we review the entire saga, and contemplate the future of FIFA? Why did the FA fail so dismally in trying to postpone the presidential election? Will Australia be refunded for its world cup bid?
The last month has been an extraordinary month for the world game’s governing body FIFA. This article reflects on some of the key moments during the crisis, examines some of the more interesting stories that arose, and gazes into what the future might hold.
The British failure
For many people, in England, Australia and the USA in particular, it is hard to understand why FIFA so harshly condemned the motion to postpone the presidential election. Sepp Blatter being the only candidate was surely a farcical situation? Blatter was called before the FIFA Ethics Committee to face charges, and was cleared only days before the election. Mohammed bin Hammam, the only other presidential candidate, is still waiting for his hearing and was barred from even attending the congress. Surely the democratic thing to do was postpone the election altogether?
The lesson to be learnt here is that FIFA is not a democracy, certainly not as people in the countries listed above understand the meaning of democracy. FIFA is controlled by the Executive Committee members (Ex-Co), which makes FIFA more akin to a feudal system. Blatter is the king, whilst his lords and barons, the governors of each region, come together to make the critical decisions. So 48 hours before what was effectively the re-coronation of the king, England suddenly suggests that the coronation be postponed, because the barons have treated their citizens badly, keeping the wealth of the kingdom to themselves. These accusations should be investigated before the coronation takes place they argue. Who has the vote on this decision? The barons.
Now England is standing their red faced, alone, being abused by speaker after speaker wondering why their notion has been so completely rejected. If England were serious about reforming FIFA they should have staked their claim when Lord Triesman made his accusations of corruption at the highest levels in FIFA, months before the World Cup bid took place. Instead Lord Triesman was forced to resign and England carried on with their bid, which they subsequently lost.
England’s failure was also aided by the fact that they accused half of the FIFA Ex-Co of engaging in corrupt activity, as their reason for changing FIFA. Did England really think the FIFA Ex-Co was going to vote in favour of them after this? England needed to offer the FIFA Ex-Co something in return for giving up their power; England needed to offer something to the hundreds of tiny little federations who each have the same voting power as England. FIFA will not be ousted by public pressure; only through internal decisions will FIFA change itself. Blatter has said that this will be his last term as president, which gives England four years to rectify their mistakes and hopefully get it right next time.
Australia and the 2022 bid
Despite calls by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon for Australia to be refunded the money it cost to put together our World Cup bid, Blatter has said their will be no investigation into the 2022 bid. Blatter has left the door ajar for other institutions to open an inquiry, such as the ethics or solutions committee, but realistically this is the end of the story. For those still harbouring hope that the 2022 World Cup Bid may be reopened, or wanting a refund, it’s a fool’s hope.
Australia can be placed in the same boat as England, with regards to complaining after the game has ended, knowing full well how the game was played. The allegations of corruption are not new to the FFA, and those people who put our bid together were fully aware of the way FIFA operates. A more worthwhile review might be why Australia decided to launch a bid in the first place. Not only was there going to be the issue of corruption, but the competition was extremely tough. Unfortunately for our sake, the benefits of hosting the World Cup in one of the USA, Japan or South Korea offered benefits to FIFA that we could never compete with. But then again, the country with the worst technical report of the five bids actually won the bid, so maybe with the right backroom deals we could have snatched it.
Changes to the World Cup bid process
Despite the ability of FIFA to stand strong against external criticism, Blatter recognised the constant attacks on the reputation of FIFA were not sustainable. Consequently, the next World Cup bid, for 2026, will be voted on by all members of the FIFA congress, not just the Ex-Co. Will this improve the legitimacy of the bid? It’s hard to tell at this stage, but one thing is certain - it cannot be any worse than the current arrangement. Given the length of time until the next bid takes place, it may well be that this process is altered more so.
The curious case of Chuck Blazer
A short but interesting story highlighting the current state of FIFA is the story of Chuck Blazer. If you read the earlier parts of this mini-series you may remember Chuck Blazer was the American Ex-Co member and general secretary of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), who released a report accusing bin Hammam and Jack Warner of corruption. As a result, Warner, who was the president of CONCACAF, was suspended. Warner’s temporary replacement as president, Lisle Austin (a known supporter of Warner), sent an e-mail to Blazer informing him that he was fired as general secretary. Blazer however responded that Austin didn’t have the power to do this, resulting in the suspension of Austin from all roles within football. Honduran Alfredo Hawit has since been appointed the temporary president.
The future of FIFA
This article concludes our mini-series on the FIFA crisis but the story itself is certainly not over. Warner and bin Hammam are still awaiting their hearing with the FIFA Ethics Committee, both of whom may be the scapegoats that pay the price for the damage in reputation to the organization. Warner in particular has had numerous allegations of corruption levelled at him over many years now, and this may just be the end of the road for him.
Where the FA goes from here is also worth keeping an eye on, British Prime Minister David Cameron recently said the reputation of FIFA was at an all time low, and that the presidential election was a farce. Cameron realised though that the FA cannot change FIFA alone when he said: “ultimately change has got to come from within football and I am sure the [English] FA will want to play a very major role in helping to bring that about.” How the FA go about this will be interesting to see, but let’s hope that they at least put a little more time and effort into their future attempts to reconstruct FIFA.