Editorial: Only corporations and UEFA can save the World Cup now

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Michel Platini

UEFA President: Michel Platini

Somebody somewhere wanted something to happen to FIFA before Friday, fearing that current President Sepp Blatter would be re-elected when the world soccer governing body gathers to vote on Friday.

NY attorney Justice Michael Garcia compiled a long report into FIFA corruption which FIFA then promptly refused to publish. It released a ‘summary’ of his report which Garcia immediately claimed mischaracterised his findings. He resigned from FIFA in anger. No-one would be surprised if the Swiss police investigating the FIFA officials had asked his opinion at some length.

While Attorney-General Lynch did say the indictment was not timed to coincide with the FIFA presidential election, it is not impossible that some of the evidence was handed over with that deadline at the forefront if their minds.

FIFA’s belief that they could silence the report into their own conduct merely underlines the ivory tower that this organisation has inhabited for too long.

Others, like former CONCACAF General-Secretary Chuck Blazer, were already assisting the inquiries.

The timing of these arrests will be welcome to all who care about football regardless of where the Swiss investigators drew their evidence from and the happy coincidence of the timing. It has derailed the Blatter coronation if only temporarily.

However we believe that it will take more than imprisoning some of the crew or even changing the captain on the FIFA deck to eradicate the cancer that has spread through world football’s governing body. Is persuading a handful of officials, the same ones who have already been bribed and cosseted, to place their vote differently really going to change things in the long term?

How many corrupt officials, that the DoJ could not find enough evidence on to indict yet, are still going to vote on Friday?

Blatter himself was not amongst those indicted and a FIFA spokesperson indicated that the election would continue on Friday as planned.

Blatter has just one opponent, Prince Ali bin Hussein, the third son of the King of Jordan. That the anti-corruption candidate is the son of an unelected hereditary dictator does not diminish the fact that he is at present our last best hope of unseating the Blatter dynasty from within FIFA.

However Prost does not believe that FIFA can cure itself with a mere change of leadership on Friday, or even the indictment of a select group of individuals at the top. More importantly, we do not believe the World Cup can be cleansed of the taint of FIFA’s corruption without the outside world acting.

Only two organisations can stop Blatter and the Qatar roadshow; and sadly neither is the public or the media.

The corporate sponsors are the only thing in the world more powerful than anyone. If they withdrew deals on moral grounds, then there will be less of a slush fund to make corruption worthwhile. They will lessen the value of the product. It will alter the risk/benefit proportions of being corrupt.

The point of the World Cup is to ascertain the best football team in the World not for already salaried individuals to profit from the money that inevitably flows through it.

A swift statement from Coca Cola and MacDonalds that they will not sponsor the 2022 World Cup unless there is a clean revote will focus some minds, even if slavery type conditions on its stadia constructions sites has not.

Coca Cola’s sponsorship of FIFA is worth $475m but they have not responded to aGuardian email requesting comment.

The second, surprisingly, is not even the media despite the cards they hold in paying for broadcasting rights. Someone in another country will always bid and download. Satellite dishes will catch.

The other organization that can derail this is surprisingly UEFA.

Encouragingly, many European Football Associations have already abandoned Blatter and few of their officials seem to have been caught in the DoJ dragnet this morning.

It has to be noted though that several Europeans are involved with the Swiss Office of the Attorney General’s separate investigation into the Qatar and Russia bids; including five members of the FIFA ExCo who took part in the World Cup vote back in 2010; Vitaly Mutko (Russia), Angel María Villar Llona (Spain), Michel D’Hooghe (Belgium), Senes Erzik (Turkey), and Marios Lefkaritis (Cyprus).

However in the main, Attorney-General Lynch pointed the finger at the Americas, especially their two federations CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.

“Beginning in 1991, two generations of soccer officials, including the then-presidents of two regional soccer confederations under FIFA – the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, known as CONCACAF which includes the United States, and the South American Football Confederation, or CONMEBOL., which represents organized soccer in South America – used their positions of trust within their respective organizations to solicit bribes from sports marketers in exchange for the commercial rights to their soccer tournaments.

“They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”

BuLi President Reinhard Rauball Bundesliga

BuLi President Reinhard Rauball
Bundesliga

UEFA could withdraw from FIFA and set up a breakaway, not unlike the way the EPL broke from the Football League; or a similar breakaway in world cricket in the 1970s.

Without 6 of the best ten teams in the world competing, nobody gets to be a bona fide champion of the world and the events loses its sporting credibility.

Additionally without England, any World Cup is worthless in terms of viewing audiences.

The UEFA Champions League is a massive enough world wide event with just clubs.

Bundesliga President Reinhard Rauball has already mooted this.

Bundesliga President: UEFA may quit FIFA over Qatar cover up

A swift invitation to the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Argentina would then leave countries like Australia, South Africa, Japan and South Korea knocking on the door – and very welcome.

Sadly it does sound a little like a G8 or first world World Cup which is why eventually it must be open even to Football Associations that backed Blatter.

However UEFA can apply a transparency test. It can insist on inspecting bank accounts of officials, basic democratic criteria in their elections, and if we want to go down that route even basic human rights.

The start or even the threat of that process may even force Sepp to resign – once the Swiss FA humiliated him by joining in.

If only there was time to get the Rauball rolling before those FIFA delegates not under arrest vote on Friday.

UPDATE: Within minutes of completing this editorial, UEFA made its announcement that it wanted the Congress postponed and may even boycott it.

Related:

UEFA may boycott FIFA Congress on Friday, calls for election postponement

Grim day for FIFA: 2016 Copa America involved $110m bribes; Jeffrey Webb arrested;

Does English football have the next Sir Alex Ferguson?

NASL acts fast and suspends Davidson

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