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FIFA needs the forces of the Arab spring to bring it into the modern world

Posted on 27 May 2011 | 4:05pm

I am slightly losing track of the allegations and counter allegations being made at the top of world football. But they are sufficiently numerous, and sufficiently confusing, that it can only be a matter of days before a gate is attached to Fifa. Fifagate – you read it here first. Maybe.

One thing is for sure – the idea that all these allegations can be properly investigated by Sunday, and cleared up in time for the Fifa presidential election a few days later, is ridiculous. There surely has to be a pause in the whole process.

Sport politics are rarely straightforward. But the appeal and wealth attached to football make its politics more complicated than most. With power and wealth ought to go greater transparency but football doesn’t appear to work like that.

The leaders of world football, as I remember from my time in Downing Street when we were supporting the FA’s last but one failed bid to host the World Cup, expect to be treated in the same way as heads of State. Red carpets, a bit of bowing and scraping, lots of listening carefully to their (occasionally fork-tongued) views.

It is the power of the sport that gives them the status. But if Fifa were a country, it would not be a Western European democracy, but a central European or Middle Eastern autocracy. And just as democratic governments have tolerated dictatorships when it suited them, so for many years we have all tolerated leadership systems for world football that we would not really want for our own governance.

Perhaps, just as Salt Lake City Winter Games corruption finally forced the IOC to modernise and become more open and transparent, this little crise will be the spur that leads Fifa to change. They should heed the forces towards democracy, openness and transparency that have fuelled the Arab spring. Go with the flow.

If they do go ahead with the election next week, then if either of the current candidates win, it will be hard to disagree with the ‘farce’ headlines that will ensue around the world.

As for the English FA, their decision to abstain from the choice between Sepp Blatter and Mohamed bin Hamman would appear to be vindicated. However, they could now rise to the challenge of seeking to build greater support among others for the notion that neither would appear to be acceptable, and that the systems which produce key decisions in Fifa need to be changed along with some of the personnel.

It all seems fairly obvious. Yet it is entirely possible that Sepp Blatter will be recrowned next week.

  • Keane Sinead

    I agree, that for some peculiar reason Blatter will be re-elected.Controversy is the by-word of his presidency.Also to award the 2022 games to Qatar smells rather badly.I think few would trust Blatter’s internal investigation.Surely if he wanted to root out any alleged corruption he would want an outside body.

  • Tommy Hall

    It does not help that the FA here appears to get through leaders as quicky as Chelsea get through managers

  • Peter Black

    If it emerged that half of them had been paid by Russia and Qatar, would anyone be very surprised? … Rhetorical q

  • Colette Cooper

    The grandiosity of the people at the top of football is nauseating. It is supposed to be the people’s game

  • Quinney

    Ally, will the the supposed protectors of the game, namely the FA then look in their own back yard?
    The two biggest clubs in the land allowed to be taken over by leveraged debt.
    The unsustainable debt levels of most top clubs
    The “fit and proper person” test, now an absolute joke.
    The lack of home grown talent
    The Burton on Trent academy, over 10 yrs late 
    Outrageous ticket prices and footballers wages
    Working class people forced out of the game due to cost
    Kick off times moved to suit TV
    A new national stadium, moved from Manchester to London that has cost £787m.
    FA cup semi finals now at Wembley

  • Ehtch

    FIFA seems to be run like a banana republic. It is that sort of “nation”.

  • Ehtch

    I think I read somewhere that the new Wembley Stadium was the first billion dollar sports stadium in the world. And it came in well over budget. Whoever managed its build must have been, frankly, useless. They must have burnt money.

  • Quinney

    Manchester won the competition for the English national Football Stadium in 1995, subsequently it was stolen from them, the “reason” being that London didn’t have time to enter their bid.
    After the dark deeds had been done it was decided to build the new London stadium on the site of the old twin towers in the middle of an industrial estate. No new light rail system, no new motorway links, no new parking system to enable fans to get there and arive quickly.

    As you rightly say it cost around £787m and the FA still owe around £350m in loans, that’s why they have moved FA cup semi final matches to Wembley, that’s why they have dimwit American football there, concerts there and that’s why the FA whore themselves to the corporate “fan”. (Look at the middle of the stadium as the second half kicks off, it’s empty as the corporates still haven’t exited the bar.)

    Because of this gross mismanagement the FA’s academy which was meant to rival the French one at Clairefontaine is over 10 yrs late.Man United were beaten 3-1 by mostly home grown Spanish (or Catalan) talent. Where’s our talented kids? Consider this though;
    Manchester’s Commonwealth Stadium (now City’s home) cost £90m. Built on time on cost.
    Millenium Stadium, Cardiff cost £120m.Built on time on cost.
    Stade de France cost £250m
    Sydney Olympic Stadium cost £250m
    All the above don’t add up to one Wembley which was built late too.

    The FA allowed human rights abusers to own clubs (Shinwatra at Man City), they allow racketeers to bid for clubs saying that they have the money to bid themselves when they don’t (man Utd and Liverpool). They subsequently transfer the debt to the club (ie the fans). The fit and proper person test is not worth the paper it’s written as spiv after spiv wants to own a PL club, not for the benefit of the club or the community or the fans but to fleece it of money. The money that is meant to go to grass roots football from the FA television deal hasn’t gone through at the rate as was promised. Our kids have to pee in bushes as the dads clear the pitches of dog mess before kids football games start. Elsewhere in Europe they have lovely community grounds.

    They allowed Portsmouth to be owed by five owners in one year They allow unsustaiable levels of debt to be built up, player’s, manager’s and agents money to go to ridiculous levels and the rest of the family of league clubs have to fend for themselves. David Conn the Guardian journalist normally writes on the state of the game on a Wednesday, it makes grim reading sometimes if you love football.
    One of the few decent people ever to run the FA was forced out and that was Lord Triesman. Why not have an interview with him Ally?

  • Ehtch

    Good info Quinney. Two sports stadiums near to me were built around the same time to Wembley for more comparison on costs, even if they are titchier;
    Liberty Stadium, Swansea, capacity 20 thou (Swans AFC/Ospreys rugby) – £27mill
    Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli, capacity 15 thou (Scarlets rugby/Llanelli RFC/Llanelli AFC) – 23 mill

    As I said, Wembleywas a money pit in construction, a total financial disgrace in how not to build a stadium. And further agree it should have been built somewhere else, maybe in the East Midlands area, as a halfway point.