International Olympic Committee

Money's the name of the world game

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 June, 2011, 12:00am

Sepp Blatter's ability to ride out a storm over allegations and confessions of widespread corruption to be re-endorsed, unopposed, as president of Fifa, football's world governing body, can be explained in one word - money.

Under the surface, global organisations like Fifa, the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations are a reflection of their members, who are mostly not wealthy. Under Blatter's 13-year leadership Fifa has leveraged the sport's global popularity and ownership of the World Cup tournament to accumulate massive reserves, from which it has doled out tens of millions of dollars in development aid and special bonuses, such as US$550,000 to all 208 member nations last year.

The members showed their appreciation in the vote for Blatter this week. They brushed aside calls to postpone the presidential election following the withdrawal of the only other candidate after he was implicated in vote-buying.

Speculation that Blatter, 75, will not see out his new four-year term can also be explained by the single word; money. The sponsors who bankroll the tournament that funds Fifa are sensitive about the bad publicity, adding to pressure for Fifa to change its ways. This is no idle threat, since sponsors forced the International Olympic Committee to reform its hosting-rights bidding process after similar allegations. Blatter has responded promptly by promising changes to make the choice of World Cup hosts more democratic and combat corruption.

Hopefully it will not stop there. Fifa has a culture of resistance to change that would impact on poorer countries that make up Blatter's power base, such as TV replay technology that would avoid embarrassing blunders by World Cup referees.

Now he must be held to account by Fifa members for promised reform. Soccer may be only a game, but it is the world game. The hundreds of millions of devoted fans who make it so are entitled to expect clean, transparent administration.