What is the first word that comes to mind when you think about FIFA, world football’s governing body?
For me, the answer is undoubtedly corruption. In recent years, innumerable scandals, rigged elections, and mass allegations of bribery and extortion have tarnished FIFA’s reputation and made it the laughing stock of the sports world. No true fan of football trusts FIFA with the proper oversight of the beautiful game, so how can we allow this shadowy organization free reign in making the most important decision in world football, namely selecting which country will host the next World Cup?
By selecting Russia and Qatar as the hosts of the next two World Cups, FIFA’s executives have proven that they are far more interested in lining their pockets than in doing what is best for the world’s most popular sport. FIFA is broken, and not even electing a new president to replace the shamelessly corrupt Sepp Blatter can fix it.
World football does not have time to wait for FIFA to remedy its many problems; fans of football want real change right now. That is why it is time for the worl’s national football federations to stand up in opposition to FIFA and usher in a new era for world football, one that respects the rules of the game and brings a level of accountability which has been missing in football for far too long. This new era should start with a new World Cup, one conducted without the constraints imposed by FIFA and one in which only the best teams on the planet take part.
It is time to reform the World Cup as we know it, and here are my suggestions as to how we can just that.
Who wouldn’t want to see a World Cup in which only the world’s top national teams took part? This would be the first change I would make in the newly formatted non-FIFA edition of the World Cup. No longer would each regional confederation (such as UEFA for Europe and CONCACAF for North America) automatically be given a fixed number of World Cup teams. Rather, the World Cup groups would be made up solely of the world’s top teams, and if this means that continents like Europe and South America have the majority of the teams, so be it.
The World Cup should not be about equality for each confederation; it should be about providing the highest possible quality of football on the pitch. By making the World Cup an independent tournament played among the world’s best teams, not only would the fairness of the tournament increase but the quality of play would as well.
Now let’s discuss how the World Cup host should be decided. Clearly, today’s method of voting lends itself to fraud and extortion, with certain federations bribing other federations in exchange for votes.
I propose an independent voting system voted on by the world’s citizens. In this process, countries’ national federations would decide whether or not they wished to host the World Cup. Then, once the list of proposed host nations was complete, each of these nations would be placed on a ballot that would be put online for everyone to see.
Citizens of each of the world’s 209 football federation countries would then vote on which country they would like to see host the next World Cup. The two highest vote-receiving countries would then be put on a new ballot, with the winner of this second ballot earning the right to host the next World Cup. This system ensures that the result is the one chosen by a majority of the world’s citizens, not simply by a few executives who could easily be bribed or persuaded to vote a certain way.
Finally, let’s consider how this new World Cup could actually happen. No doubt it would take a lot of work on the part of world football to rid itself of the negative influence of FIFA, but I truly believe that it can be done.
The first step would be for some of the world’s top football teams to boycott the World Cup in its current form. This may seem unrealistic, but many countries have in the past boycotted large sporting events like the Olympics, albeit for political rather than sporting reasons. If organizations like the English FA and U.S. Soccer, which have already voiced their disdain towards the current World Cup selection process and mentioned the possibility of not partaking in upcoming World Cups, were to stand up and refuse to take part in the FIFA World Cup, I have no doubt that other nations would soon follow.
Furthermore, we would need corporate sponsors as well as fans to go along with the boycott. We all know that FIFA’s main goal is to make money, so if its two biggest profit generators, sponsors and fans, refused to take part in the event, it would create chaos within FIFA and almost certainly force the organization to fundamentally change the way it is run.
We need real change if we are to change football for the better. FIFA is corrupt and needs to be radically restructured from the inside out, starting with the selection process involved in choosing World Cup host nations.
However, world football does not have time to wait around for FIFA to get its act together. The time to act in defiance of FIFA is now, and a good start would be boycotting the next World Cups, dubiously allocated to Russia and Qatar, and hosting an independent World Cup centered around football and the fans rather than corporate profits and internal politics.
It is time for world football to move out of the shadows and into the 21st century. Now all we need is for a few courageous heads of national football federations to say “enough is enough.”
PHOTO 1/ David Meinicke
PHOTO 2/ Warrenski