It only took a few days for these particular leopards to show the world that their spots remain exactly the same colour as usual. No sooner had arrests been made than the machinating began in earnest, and no more than a couple of days after the surprising resignation of Sepp Blatter as the president of FIFA – which was surprising primarily because most thought that the old dog would cling onto the ruins of the good ship gravy train for as long as humanly possible – than England, perfidious Albion, was up to its old tricks again. Both the Football Association and the government itself have been unable to contain their excitement over the events of the last few days, and over the course of the last twenty-four four hours or so, both have been making crass, entitled and fundamentally stupid comments on the subject of the location of future World Cup finals.
At least, we might concede, the Football Association hasn’t yet been stupid enough to stick its head above any parapets and claim that England should be hosting any further tournaments. Interviewed on The Today programme on BBC Radio Four yesterday morning, though Greg Dyke did state that, “It now means that we can get someone in to run FIFA.” We’ve reported on this site before that perhaps the biggest issue facing the reform of FIFA is the matter of the enmities and culture of distrust that seem to exist between different federations and confederations. Dyke was not clear on the question of who he meant by “we” and his answer to that question may well be the comparatively innocent one of “all the other member associations of FIFA,” but he certainly didn’t make this clear and such a statement might easily be interpreted by others as a threat of a land grab by, if not the FA itself, then UEFA at the very least.
The behaviour of Dyke over the last few days has been frankly unbecoming for a man in his position. The agonised position in which FIFA finds itself today might well be considered to be in no small part a result of the behaviour of Englishmen in the past, and his barely concealed glee at the arrests made last week and Blatter’s subsequent resignation have made for nauseating viewing for anybody hoping for a little humility from a man in his position. It night have been more appropriate for him to keep a low profile and to comment on the fact that the global governing body of the game ending up in the position in which it has found itself over the last week or so only the extent that this whole situation is a tragedy, to some extent. But no. Dyke has been break-dancing on the grave of the collapse of the reputation of both FIFA and Blatter himself. He has been, since this story first broke, the almost exact definition of a bad winner.
This morning, however, even his over-excitement over the decline and fall of the current incarnation of the Zurich empire was topped by the comments of the brand new, shiny Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, who, with the flourish of a man who simply doesn’t care about the old adage that’s it’s better to remain silent and be considered a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt, noted that, while he supported Dyke’s assertion that England shouldn’t be looking with rapacious eyes towards the 2022 tournament, “obviously if FIFA came forward and asked us to consider hosting it, we have the facilities in this country and of course we did mount a very impressive, if unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 World Cup,” none of which sounds very much like the sort of thing that somebody who wasn’t interested in the slightest in hosting the 2022 tournament would say, from here.
We all understand that there will be considerable brinkmanship to come, if FIFA is to be successfully reformed. However, to actually make the organisation get its house in order will require those who voted in the majority for Blatter at the end of last week to vote in favour of it again. In an era of twenty-four hour rolling news, we would all like answers now, but this isn’t necessarily going to come easily and conflicting interests will only serve to maintain the existing status quo. For now, the focus should be on establishing exactly what on earth has been going on behind closed doors, all over the world, for a very long time, and at the stage at which we know definitively the extent to which World Cups were bought, kick-backs were accepted, and palms were greased, then perhaps a conversation should be held over whether it remains appropriate to hold the next two tournaments in the countries that have won them.
For the Football Association to be explicitly delighting in the discomfort of others – no matter how deserved that discomfort may be – and for the government to be giving the impression of angling to host one of these tournaments before any proper investigations over the way that they were awarded in the first place has even been completed is only likely to send out a message that will ultimately frustrate the reforms of FIFA that so many people want to see. Where other FIFA members have preconceptions of imperialist and colonialist intentions on the part of European members (and the English in particular), the recent language of the FA and the government only seems likely to further reinforce those views. Rather than projecting forward to what happens in the event of the Russian and Qatari World Cup bids being found to have been so hopelessly corrupt as to be untenable, all concerned should close their mouths and let the results of the investigations and court cases that will now be coming speak for themselves.
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