FIFA and the World Cup

Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA

Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA

There have been a number of comments in the media in the last few days about the possible re-election of Sepp Blatter as the President of FIFA. Mr. Blatter is no stranger to controversy and speculation but even by his standards the degree of hyperbole has been quite alarming.

The cause of the commentary is that Mr. Blatter stated in 2011 that he would not seek re-election, but it would appear that he may well have changed his mind. The Chairmen of the football associations of England and the Netherlands have urged Sepp Blatter to honour his previous statement and thus not seek this fifth term of office.

The root cause of their objection is not exclusively based on a possible reversal of opinion but rather that FIFA is struggling to maintain public confidence after a string of incidents in the last few years, which would include accusations of bribery and corruption associated with the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and the subsequent issues that have arisen from having awarded the competition to this country that enjoys such extreme summer weather and an apparent disregard for the health and safety of the workers employed to build the stadia.

However, even as these European countries call for Sepp Blatter to stand down rather than seek re-election, some of the other football federations have risen in support of their President, the more so after he explained the increased revenues that will be awarded to the eleven Oceania countries from the increased profits that will be garnered from the forthcoming 2014 World Cup in Brasil.

Yet we cannot ignore the fact that money is a two-edged sword. Two of the major FIFA sponsors have openly called for a full investigation into the accusations of corruption and bribery and these are calls that simply cannot be denied.

In the interests of fairness, and to quickly dispel any notion of “trial in the media”, I consider that the fairest approach at the moment would be to delay any vote on the election process until after an independent inquiry has been conducted. That inquiry ought to continue the work that has been conducted by FIFA’s internal ethics committee. The independent inquiry ought to report all findings openly and publically in the shortest possible period of time. Once that report has been published FIFA could then hold elections based upon clear evidence rather than against a backdrop of tarnished reputations, speculation and conjecture.

Football may well be a sport but it has rules. Its governing body, FIFA, also has rules and must be seen to be adhering scrupulously to those rules otherwise what future does this magnificent game have to offer to the millions of supporters around the world; for whom many watching soccer is a release from the drudgery of their fatigued and constrained lives.