The past few weeks have been nothing but a damning indictment of football. Whilst we should have been celebrating another magnificent performance by one of the greatest club sides ever the beautiful game has been dragged through the dirt by a group of politicians who seem to lack a shred of decency between them. And it’s not just the pensioners who run FIFA who are guilty of failing the game, football governance appears to be rotten to its core and worst of all there doesn’t seem to be a way out.
The fact that Blatter was re-elected with so abstentions was embarrassing enough yet the reaction to the FA’s last minute attempt to delay the vote was both hilarious and disturbing. As one the delegates took to the floor to praise Blatter to the heavens whilst heaping scorn on the FA and the English in general. Perhaps my particular favourite came from Julio Grondona, a man who had previously claimed England could have the World Cup when they the Falklands back to Argentina, came out to accuse the British media of being ‘more busy lying than telling the truth’. Presumably they were also lying when the broke the e-mail from Jerome Valcke to Jack Warner claiming that Qatar had bought the World Cup. Surely those that voted in the FIFA congress cannot believe every allegation they’ve heard over the past few months is nothing more than the British media stirring up trouble and trying to break up the FIFA family. Presumably this makes us Brits the unruly teenager.
Yet the FA’s pathetic attempt at teenage rebellion does not suddenly give them the role as great reformers they were no doubt hoping for. Little over six months ago the FA were as guilty as anyone else, accusing the BBC and the Sunday Times of being unpatriotic by publishing details of alleged corruption amongst the very men who were to decide on England’s World Cup bid. But the bid was doomed from the very moment Russia threw its hat into the ring; football coming home does not sit well with FIFA’s stated goal of taking football to new markets (hence South Africa, Russia, Qatar and probably China). One wonders why the FA would have wanted the World Cup anyway, bringing as it does the FIFA circus with its demands for tax exemption and luxury living, a state within a state parachuted into a country for a month before leaving a multi-billion pound bill.
England may have created association football but quite frankly no one could care less what we have to say anymore. If the FA wish to start some sort of moralist crusade six months too late they certainly should, but they will do so alone. FIFA clearly has no appetite for reform, presumably the only reason Blatter brought Henry Kissinger in to deal with corruption was for the purpose of irony. And no association or individual will be able to reform football’s governing body. Yet despite the atmosphere of defeatism that emanates from those calling for reform there remains hope.
FIFA, a former charity run from a small house in Zurich, has transformed itself into a huge commercial empire that benefits from a great many tax breaks from the Swiss government. Yet it is entirely reliant on its one great brand, the World Cup, and its sponsors. Yet were these sponsors to take their expressions of doubt further and perhaps threaten to withdraw their support then Blatter’s position would go from secure to untenable in a matter of moments. So here we are with a sport in tatters and looking to Adidas and Coca-Cola to take the moral high-ground. God help us all.