Going, Going, Gone
Now that Sepp Blatter has resigned, widespread international glee is tempered by a daunting question for FIFA: What next?
An organisation that seemed incapable of meaningful reform must now make quick, profound changes in transparency and accountability if it is to regain credibility in the wake of revelations of widespread corruption. It seems clear that FIFA not only has to change its president after Blatter’s resignation but also its entire culture, a foul ethos of secrecy, corruption and self-enrichment. “World football has a culture problem,” David Larkin, a lawyer based in Washington who specialises in international sports and is a director of the organisation ChangeFIFA was reported as saying, “The pollution of the culture. If you don’t get rid of it, it will keep happening over and over again.”
An intriguing idea was proposed last summer by Chris Eaton, an anticorruption expert and a former head of security at FIFA. The idea was to form a “Football Truth Commission,” using a process
similar to the one South Africa set up in coming to terms with apartheid. Public hearings could be held before lawyers, judges and investigators.
Soccer officials could confess what they did, knew or suspected about corruption, bribery or match-fixing. FIFA’s books could be opened. The guilty could ask for leniency or amnesty. “Consequences of discovery” of wrongdoing after the conclusion of the commission’s work “would be severe, encouraging all to come forward,” Eaton had told a leading British newspaper an year ago. When FIFA begins to put in place overhauls, it should do what the Olympics did with drug testing – turn it over to independent investigators. Transparency International, a global anticorruption organisation, is right in saying that an overhaul committee should be made up of people who are not appointed or paid by FIFA, and not confined by politics in their investigations or when editing their reports.
“Reform cannot come from within FIFA, nor from those who are no longer credible,” Transparency International said in a statement after Sepp Blatter’s resignation as president. There <g data-gr-id="109">is</g> potential reward and risk in including Blatter in any attempts at change, said Dick Pound, a member of the
International Olympic Committee from Montreal who led the investigation of a bribery scandal in Salt Lake City ahead of the 2002 Winter Games there.
Markus Kattner, FIFA’s head of finance and administration told a news portal recently, and arrogantly, about Blatter’s undisclosed salary, “We have hidden it so you cannot find it. We’re not publishing it, first of all, because we don’t have to.”
There should be a re-examination of the bid process that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. And officials should reconsider the one-country, one-vote system in FIFA elections to determine whether it promotes democracy or patronage.
Grant Wahl, a senior writer with Sports Illustrated who tried to run against Blatter in the 2011 FIFA presidential election, suggests that an outsider be named to run international soccer. He nominates Kofi Annan, the former <g data-gr-id="111">secretary general</g> of the United Nations, who would signal that “there’s a new sheriff in charge.” “The good side is, he’s got no more skin in the game, so he can help clean it up,” Pound said of Blatter. “The bad side is, the delegates might say, “You’re out of here, so we don’t have to worry about you.”
Pound also added, “You can see the possibility of a meeting with some of the delegates saying, ‘I’ve got 55 votes in my pocket here, which will come your way if you don’t look under too many stones.”
A torrent of proposals for overhauls have poured forward in recent years: term limits for FIFA’s president and executive committee; independent members serving on the executive committee for oversight; independent vetting of all senior FIFA officials; mandatory competitive bidding on contracts; no cash transactions; more women in decision-making positions; and public accounting of the salaries and bonuses paid to top officials.
Some have mentioned Indo-American Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation and a member of FIFA’s executive committee. But Blatter fanned anti-American resentment after last week’s indictments of 14 soccer and marketing officials by the United States authorities.
Gulati has also faced scrutiny for his association in <g data-gr-id="92">Concacaf</g>, the soccer federation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean, with several of the indicted officials: Chuck Blazer, Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb. Gulati has not been accused of any wrongdoing. And he sought change by supporting Prince Ali over Blatter. Still, Larkin of ChangeFIFA said, “How can contemporaries of Blazer and Warner still in Concacaf not have had a reasonable suspicion that something was wrong?”
As reported by American media, Gulati declined to comment on Tuesday. His supporters point out that the accused are said to have concocted elaborate schemes to conceal their actions.
“I consider him someone who I can say, without a doubt, is always committed to doing the right thing,” Don Garber, the commissioner of Major League Soccer, said of Sunil Gulati. Garber also added, “I can say without any hesitation that if he had even an inkling that any of this was going on, he would have stepped up. And he would have not only said something, he would have done everything he could to do something about it.”
Speaking in general terms, Garber said that with Blatter’s resignation, “You almost feel like a dark cloud was lifted off this sport.” An opportunity now exists for real structural change, Garber said. “It would be a shame if we missed this opportunity,” he added.
Russia 2018, Qatar 2022 World Cups in jeopardy
The FBI is investigating the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar as part of its wide-ranging crackdown on Fifa corruption, according to Reuters. The American bureau, which along with the Swiss authorities arrested numerous Fifa officials in Zurich last week on corruption charges, is reportedly examining the controversial awarding of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, whose destinations were decided in 2010. The Swiss authorities had already declared they were investigating the 2018 and 2022 bids. Jérôme Valcke, the Fifa general secretary, has also said, “I don’t feel guilty” despite being at the centre of a storm that alleges South Africa paid $10m to secure three votes for the 2010 World Cup. “I have no reason to say that I shouldn’t remain secretary general regarding what’s happened in the last <g data-gr-id="176">days,</g> because I have no responsibility,” he told France Info radio. “I’m beyond reproach and I certainly don’t feel guilty. So I don’t even have to justify that I’m innocent.”
Looking back: -
Have a look at how Sepp Blatter rose to power and the controversies which damaged his reputation.
10 March 1936 :10 March <g data-gr-id="241">1936 :</g> Blatter was born in Visp, Canton Valais, Switzerland and studied at the University of Lausanne
1958-1970: 1Blatter was also general secretary of the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation, director of sports timing and relations of watch manufacturer Longines.
1970-1975 :<g data-gr-id="270">1970-1975 :</g> Blatter was involved in the organisation of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany and the 1976 Games held in Montreal.
1975: 1 Blatter joins Fifa, initially as technical director.
1981: 1He was appointed general secretary of Fifa until 1998.
8 June 1998: 8 June 1998: Blatter is elected as Fifa President on 8 June 1998.
2002 election:2 Blatter’s candidacy is marked with rumours of financial irregularities and backroom dealings – culminating with direct accusations of bribery with claims that the Somali Football Federation and Confederation of African Football were both offered $1,00,000 to vote for Blatter in 1998.
2004: Blatter is labelled sexist after saying that women footballers should play in “tighter shorts”. These were his actual words: “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts... Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men - such as playing with a lighter ball.”
July 2008: Blatter said of Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer saga from Manchester United to Real Madrid: “I think in football, there’s too much modern slavery, in transferring players or buying players here and there, and putting them somewhere.”
February 2010: Blatter said of John Terry’s alleged affair with a Chelsea team-mate’s wife. “Listen, this is a special approach in the Anglo-Saxon countries. If this had happened in let’s say Latin countries then I think he would have been applauded.”
Awarding of 2018 World Cup – December 2010 : Blatter calls England “bad losers” after losing out to Russia in their bid to stage the 2018 World Cup after receiving just two votes.
Awarding of 2022 World Cup :Blatter reveals Qatar will controversially stage the 2022 World Cup. Due to the searing conditions, question marks are immediately raised over the players’ and fans’ wellbeing. The illegality of homosexuality also causes Blatter to joke that “I would say they (gay fans) should refrain from any sexual activities”.Blatter also unleashes a tirade against the “racist” British media and what he branded a ploy to “destroy” Fifa after further evidence emerges over alleged corruption in the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
In the race for <g data-gr-id="348">fifa’s</g> top job
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein
Prince Ali ran a surprisingly strong campaign in last week’s election, losing to Blatter, 133 to 73, on the first ballot and then conceding. Prince Ali ran on a platform of reform, which was always a risk given FIFA’s longstanding opposition to that. But on Tuesday he told CNN that he would be “at the disposal” of anyone who wanted to bring about change at FIFA, including those who might have been “afraid to do so” before Blatter’s resignation. “We have to salvage FIFA,” he said.
At times a Blatter ally and at others his most prominent critic, Platini had long declined to run for the presidency. <g data-gr-id="374">Instead</g> he contented himself as the chief of Europe’s governing body, UEFA, and as a player on FIFA’s executive committee. Now he can run for the top job without challenging Blatter head on, and he will surely be supported by the game’s financial power base in Europe. Platini, a former world player of the year, also has playing chops on his résumé, though it is not clear if his close ties to Blatter will help.
A former Manchester United chief executive, Gill had the shortest stay on the executive committee in FIFA history. Gill, who was to take his seat on the executive committee last week, had said he would resign if Blatter did not. Turns out, Blatter blinked first. Could that be the boost Gill needs to make the case that England – and by extension Europe – needs to run the store again? But the bloc of support that kept Blatter in office may unite someone who will not put Europe’s interests above theirs.
No. FIFA is more likely to give the top job to Loretta E. Lynch than to Gulati, the head of U.S. Soccer, right now, which is to say that no American will get anywhere near the FIFA presidency in the near future. Anti-Americanism runs high in world sports generally, and perhaps nowhere higher than inside FIFA. Many member countries – not to mention leaders like Vladimir Putin – viewed the Department of Justice investigation as an unwelcome intrusion by American officials into a sovereign body.
The former Portugal star entered the race against Blatter but withdrew last month and threw his support behind Prince Ali. The campaign opened his eyes to the reality of FIFA politics, which shocked him at times, but anyone who played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona ought to be eminently capable of walking a political tightrope. He played as a winger for Sporting CP, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Internazionale before retiring on 31 May 2009. He won a record 127 caps for the Portugal national football team.
Lydia <g data-gr-id="407">Nsekera</g>
In 2013, <g data-gr-id="403">Nsekera</g>, 48, became the first woman elected to FIFA’s executive committee. She has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2009, and as a black woman and an African — she was the president of Burundi’s soccer federation from 2004 to 2013 — she represents two interesting constituencies that might be due a turn running the game. Another credible choice, should FIFA decide to look at female candidates, might be Moya Dodd.