The Brazil World Cup, which started over a week ago, continues to throw up surprises. Many smaller nations and relative newcomers have already caused result upsets. The old order was shaken to its core on Wednesday after Spain, the reigning World Champions, were unceremoniously dumped from the competition by Chile, while England met an early exit after a spanking by another New World upstart Uruguay. It is refreshing to see just how much things have changed for world football in the past few decades, despite being governed by Fifa, an organisation now more associated with words like, outdated, intransigence and of course sleaze.
While the world has changed and greater openness and transparency in most things is expected, Fifa have actually gone backwards to the point that they could almost be regarded as a byzantine throwback, such are their convoluted systems, intrigues and secret ballots, designed specifically to allow a hand full of the old order to retain the reins of power. So the charges and accusations piling up against Fifa were almost inevitable.
If asked to list the current issues and accusations facing Fifa in any kind of order, I would struggle to even begin, simply because of the sheer number. Of course the outstandingly stupid award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar must surely rank near the top but there are also a lot of unanswered questions about the way Russia was awarded the 2018 Cup. Anyway, as I said – far too many issues to list so please watch this very funny, yet factual YouTube, which will give you a true flavour of the broader issues facing Fifa:
Ever since the arrival of Satellite TV companies and their rivers of cash, Fifa has been auctioning off the very soul of football for vast profit. Long gone are the days when this None for Profit organisation depended, almost entirely on handouts and donations from the worlds various leagues and regional governing bodies because in this Cup year alone their income is thought to be heading for somewhere in the region of about $2.3 billion. This on top of over $1 Billion they hold in the bank, despite being None for Profit – what kind of “Rainy Day” are they expecting to be stashing away that amount of money?
Photo by Wbeem
Of course money doesn’t just allow the executives in charge of a company to pay themselves fabulous wages. If you refuse to improve accountability and transparency, especially in an organisation where too many past and present executives have already been sacked for dabbling in the twin curses of greed and corruption, you are simply asking for trouble.
So what, you may ask, has Fifa done about accountability and transparency since it was transformed from the games poor relation into a bloated behemoth, awash with cash? The short answer is very little, indeed there is a sense that a new “Loads of Money!” arrogance arrived with that new money, which has now fostered a very unfortunate attitude. So now if you ever challenged Fifa, they far too often respond along the lines of Who are you to question what we do, when only we know what is best for the game? This same arrogance has perversely helped those in charge at Fifa feel they need to be less accountable and as for transparency, what company in the world earning such vast amounts, would tolerate the use of secret ballots? Secret ballots not only for the selection of the next countries to host the World Cup, but also for the key jobs within the organisation from the position of president downwards.
If we look for one reason little has changed at Fifa, we need look no further than to the incumbent President – Sepp Blatter. A man who has presided over Fifa for most of the past two decades, a man with the arrogance to nominate himself for yet another term as President in the very teeth of what will soon be regarded as Fifa’s biggest storm: the Qatar sleaze scandal.
Photo by Calcio Streaming
Only if you are a Fifa Executive or someone who has lived on a distant planet could you deny that Fifa urgently needs a root and branch reform of all of its systems and methods. However, what it definitely does not need is yet another reform review carried out by Fifa insiders, surreptitiously presided over by the old order, or a reform carried out by an Independent company, who are prepared to do nothing more than window dressing, because it’s Independence only exist as far back as its secret Swiss bank account, which recently received a quite substantial cash payment from a mysterious gentleman, wearing a false beard, who called himself Bepp Slatter!
Then what? What will happens after the old order are put out to pasture, as they surely must. Who will run Fifa then? The clever money is on one of two long established football legends to take over: Franz Beckenbauer, who lifted the World Cup not only as a player but also as a manager; and Michel Platini, the hero of French football and current president of the European governing body Uefa. And yet, despite the unquestioned skills of these stars, we must ask some serious questions of both. On the top of the list of questions for Mr Beckenbauer is: why have you so totally refused to answer any questions given to you in both German and English by the people investigating the alleged corruption at the heart of the Qatar bid, that you have now been banned from any football related activity for 90 day? Then for Mr Platini: What on earth motivated you to vote for such a ridiculous choice as Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, before going on to endlessly criticise the decision through your position within Uefa? Gentlemen we all make mistakes but you had all the facts for months if not years before you made your bad choices.
Anyway, the World Cup rolls on for another few weeks, so perhaps we should simply try and enjoy the spectacle while it last. But once the celebrations are finally over, we must not only see the investigation into the Qatar bid continue, but use its inevitably damning findings as a lever for a real root and branch reform within Fifa. Nothing less should be acceptable now when the very future of world football depends on it.