30 May 2011

Cutting the rug from under Sepp Blatter's feet

Been trying to take a break from politics the last couple of days... but of course all that happens when I do that is that I end up running into politics, just in a different form. Currently the Guardian headline is Sepp Blatter of FIFA doing a Jim Callaghan.

(Or at least, if you believe the popular mythology as put about by the Murdoch Press. Callaghan never actually said "Crisis? What Crisis?" - it was actually a Supertramp album title from 1975 (good album, thoroughly recommended, by the way). He flew back from some kind of economic summit in the Carribean in January 1979, appeared a bit clueless about the mounting industrial disruption at the time, and that was that. But I digress...)

Any interview with Sepp Blatter simply reinforces the guy's aloofness and his overwhelming feeling that he is untouchable. FIFA appears to be drowning in corruption allegations, and yet to quote one of my favourite Super Furry Animals songs, "The Man Don't Give A F***". David Conn of the Guardian sums the situation up succintly and accurately:

When repeating his overarching argument, that he regards Fifa as untouchable even by governments, accountable only to its own "family within", Blatter even came close to using the phrase "Crisis? What crisis?"

Asked if this is indeed a crisis for Fifa, with two executive committee members suspended and one, Jack Warner, threatening to unleash a "tsunami" against Fifa which began on Sunday night with allegations of impropriety against Blatter himself, the president said: "Crisis? What is a crisis? Football is not in a crisis. We are only in some difficulties, and the difficulties will be solved within the football family."

Blatter's smug arrogance is typical of tax exiles operating international organisations - Switzerland and Dubai tend to be the most favoured bases of operations for these kind of rackets. And he's right that - as football's governing body is currently constituted - he's untouchable. FIFA has deliberately set itself up as outside national jurisdiction.

BUT... the operative clause here is "as football's governing body is currently constituted." FIFA may have a monopoly on organising association football at the moment, but there's no innate reason why that should be the case. If national football associations decided to disaffiliate from FIFA and establish a new, non-corrupt international governing body, Sepp Blatter would pretty soon find himself out of a job.

At the end of the day it's the national governing bodies who have the power. Simple as that. All they have to do is use it.

To that end, I will be continuing my sometime campaign, launched last year, for an alternative governing body to FIFA... and this is very relevant to current political situations more generally, as I do feel revolution could sort out a lot of our problems right now. It was the solution in Egypt; it's the solution in Greece (and I'll be responding to Van Patten's interesting, but wrongheaded, post soon); it's the solution in the USA; and it's the solution here. And maybe - just maybe - it all starts with FIFA.

Blatter is the sporting equivalent of the bankers in the real economy. And like the bankers, he desperately needs to be taken down several pegs, or maybe just taken down, period/full stop.


Van Patten said...

I think the solution might be along the lines of what occurs periodically in boxing, whereby if a group of people don't especially like what the current sanctioning authorities are doing, they can set up their own 'Board of Control'. The one issue with this is that it can spawn a serious multiplicity of jurisdictions. At the last count within the boxing world , there were four major, and potentially 9 minor sanctioning organisations, which means that the potential for internecine strife is huge. So much so that the main publication 'ring' Magazine publishes its own rasnkings. Perhaps there is an opportunity for something like 'When Saturday comes' to do the same in football? Perhaps a more appropriate resolution would be attempts to setup breakaway Motorsport foundations in the late 1970s and 1980s.

However, I cannot (and indeed know noone outside of the organisation itself) fault the general sentiment. Rather like the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, it's one of those things that everyone knows (at least who takes an interest in it) is a shambles and out of control. An alternative Body of control cannot do any worse than this corrupt,bloated and seemingly surreal behemoth.

red two said...

Wouldn't challenge the sentiment, or the perceived solution. The limitations of the approach, or rather the reason it doesn't look likely to happen, is evident from the make-up of the current anti-FIFA bandwagon.

It's British, basically. All of the aggressive questions at yesterday's press conference were from British journos based with British media. Not a coincidence. After England's failed World Cup bid (not something I give a toss about personally), and the accompanying protests and manifold corruption allegations, Britain (and England specifically) are blacklisted by FIFA. Nothing to lose.

We have an aggressive media anyway, of course, which is part of how we got here (to FIFA's nose being put out of joint). Every other bugger's just got too much to lose. The perception would be that the risk of retribution if unsuccessful would just be too high. Nobody's going to bail out of FIFA without knowing that everyone else is going to do it too.

It's difficult to see how the thing can be cleaned up, given the evident lack of enthusiasm from within FIFA for reform. There's nobody else you really fancy to be a unifying symbol of any revolution. I like Platini a lot, but his attempt to level the European playing field and introduce a bit of common sense to the relatively straightforward world of UEFA has already been watered down.

Hal Berstram said...

Red - I agree it's unlikely to happen. A lot of countries would have to quit FIFA en masse for it to work. Unless everybody left at once you could end up with a situation where there were 2 international football associations - FIFA and the new one - and hence 2 World Cups etc. Which is far from ideal (although I guess the winner of each could play off in a "Super Bowl" type arrangement to decide the overall world champion.)

But you're right, the only big noise we've heard so far is from the English FA - and that's an irrelevance by itself.

Hal Berstram said...

On this topic, I found today's article by Simon Jenkins excellent. Jenkins is wildly inconsistent but when he's aiming at a sensible target, he's very readable.

Van Patten said...

Agree - the Jenkins commentary was spot on. My only quibble was that he lumped in some worthy organisations also based in Switzerland with FIFA and the equally corrupt IOC. The issue is that, as with the 2022 World Cup venue selection, the FIFA delegates (and in that I include our own FA) are utterly unrepresentative of the football fans and small clubs and oblivious to issues of corruption and graft within the game. As Red Two says, its only an English problem, mainly in response to our failed World Cup bid, and like him I'm glad we weren't saddled with it. My only regret is that it's now too late to do anything about the other circus, the 2012 Olympics, also mired in corruption and run by a self satisfied collection of smug kleptocrats. A plague on all their houses!