It should go without saying that if you are looking for the best writing on the current car crash that is FIFA at the moment, you should probably be following, amongst others, Matt Scott, David Conn and Paul Kelso on Twitter, to say the least. For sporadic outbursts of indignant rage, you are also welcome to follow this site on Twitter.
It was too little, too late, but it was better than nothing at all and the number that either supported the FA’s motion to postpone the coronation of Sepp Blatter for another four years at FIFA was probably greater than expected. These, however, are small crumbs of comfort from a dismal morning for world football and the question for those of us that sit in the middle of this debate – riddled with anxiety over the rotten core of the world game’s governing body yet fully aware of the great danger that could be posed by the alternatives – are now left to ask the question of who, exactly, will stand up for anything other than their own interests.
By the end of this afternoon, though, everything was swept under the carpet, and all was well again in the world of those that have a five star hotel in any city in the world of their choosing. FIFA have announced the introduction of a corporate governance and compliance body (which will be made up of, you guessed it, FIFA members) and that future World Cup bids will be voted upon by all 208 members rather than just the twenty-four man executive committee – a decision which will leave the jaded merely thinking that there are now opportunities for 208 bribes rather than twenty-four.
FIFA embarrassed itself this morning, though, with an absolute sham of a conference that brought shame upon almost all of those that spoke at it. The level of intellect present this morning was perhaps best encapsulated by Julio Grondona of the Argentinian Football Association, who stated that he would never have supported an English World Cup bid unless the Falkland Islands were handed back to Argentina. Yet for all that the organisation has resisted what it regards as “political interference” over the years, Grondona’s comments will likely go unchecked. If this is the level of debate that FIFA operates at, though, one starts to wonder if withdrawing from it might not be the terrible idea that we suppose it to be.
Yet a terrible idea it would almost certainly be. There are plenty that would seek to divide and conquer global football, and precious few of them have anything like altruistic motives. One of the most significant achievements of FIFA has been to prevent schisms occurring of the sort that have divided other sports, but performances like today’s only make it more likely that such an eventuality will come to pass. It could even be argued that, by following the path that it is following at present, it is risking enfeebling itself in years to come. Whether that is something that is taken into account by those currently running the organisation, though, is another matter altogether.
The issue of pressurising sponsors is also a thorny one. Britain is now a small market in global terms, and without substantial support from elsewhere it will likely pool only trite words of concern from the PR departments of the companies concerned. If the Coca-Cola drinking public in, say, Brazil could be persuaded to boycott, then perhaps. But the truth of the matter is that this story remains an insignificance on an international scale, and this is the Catch-22 in which the FA has found itself. Acting, broadly speaking, alone, it has stood accused of petulance over losing the 2018 World Cup finals bid, none of which takes into account the fact that the 2018 bid has not been called into question in any significant way since the announcement was made or that comments such as that which Julio Grondona made this morning would give the FA genuine cause for grievance regarding the voting process over it.
Such considerations are, ultimately, irrelevant. If pressuring sponsors seems unlikely, withdrawing from FIFA is unappealing (and, more to the point, still implausible, if we are realistic) and international support is weak, then perhaps the only thing to do is to sit it out for four years and hope that Michel Platini runs in four years’ time. Platini’s time in charge of UEFA has given cautious cause for optimism that he could be the man to finally drag FIFA away from its history of maladministration and in-fighting. In the mean-time, the FA has had the contempt with which it, English football and arguably the English in a general sense are held on the global sense thrust into its face in the starkest terms possible.
There have been those that have argued that the FA are hypocrites for having bade for the 2018 World Cup in the first place. There are certainly many reservations to be held over this decision, but the logical extension of this argument would be to claim that they shouldn’t have spoken up about it over the last couple of weeks either. FIFA, ultimately, is only accountable to itself and hopes of reform over the course of a few months are probably premature. Over a period of time, though, it is just possible that the organisation may be able to drag itself out of the trough that it currently inhabits. For now, though, we are stuck what we have. Too many people had too much to lose. And perhaps the most surprising thing about all of this is that some people do genuinely seem surprised by it.