Why Fifa presidential sham won’t be the cleansing of football we were hoping for
The forthcoming election should be a watershed moment for football. It will be anything but
The forthcoming Fifa presidential election should be a watershed moment for football. It will be anything but.
The five candidates vying to sit on world football’s throne all fail to instil the confidence needed to give Fifa the clean bill of health it and the sport desperately require after Sepp Blatter’s corrupt era.
It’s hard to keep a straight face when each of the hopefuls claim all is well when one of them takes the helm of an organisation embroiled in a major criminal investigation.
The aspirants may be innocent of any wrongdoing but each is guilty by association because all are too closely associated with the corruption culture that shamed football.
Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain, has emerged as the front-runner to replace Blatter.
Allegations of match-fixing on his Bahrain FA presidency watch in 2010 aside, how hypocritical – not to mention immoral – for a Fifa presidential candidate riding on a democratic ticket, to also be a senior politician serving in a regime that violently smacks down its own people’s democratic desires.
Like Sheikh Salman, Fifa veteran Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan is also a member of a political regime whose record on democracy, transparency and accountability leaves much to be desired.
French national Jerome Champagne is viewed as damaged goods by many because for 11 years he was Blatter’s closest political “eyes and ears” on world football.
South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale was recently summoned as a prime witness by the FBI to give his account of Fifa’s dirty work and has expressed sympathy for Blatter.
Uefa’s secretary general Gianni Infantino is likely to give Sheikh Salman a run for his money – even though his boss, disgraced Uefa president Michel Platini, has been banned for eight years for taking an alleged six-figure back-hander from Blatter.
Since Blatter’s and Platini’s expulsions, and the arrests of senior Fifa officials, the five candidates have carried on canvassing for the top job in much the same Machiavellian vein as their predecessor, conducting back-room deals and horse trading in the shadows to garner support among the 209 member nations.
What is being said publicly by the five holds little value to a suspicious public who have heard it all before; the claims that each is capable of enforcing root and branch reform to rebuild Fifa anew are met with derision and despair.
Their campaigns have smacked of another power grab in an ersatz parliament defined by bribes and kickbacks while brave reform policies go wanting.
They are seen to offer more of the same – of looking the other way to backhanders, of fearing to speak out over dodgy deals, or too vulnerable to the temptation of stuffing their noses in the cash-filled Fifa trough. They could also appoint current Fifa officials who might yet go the way of Blatter, et al in the back of a law enforcement car.
None of the candidates has about them the redeeming whiff of strong disinfectant to nuke the germ of malfeasance that plagues Fifa. They do not reflect the sheen of trust, transparency and governance demanded.
Next week’s presidential elections is a charade, already classified by football supporters as null and void, a sham.
Fifa is a condemned organisation. Only its abolishment can give football a fresh start.
In its place should be a wholly independent commission to take over the running of world football, one with a revolving six-month presidency so power never sits long enough with one individual to abuse. A supporters’ bloc should also sit on that commission.
This is not wishful thinking. Under Swiss law, Fifa should have already been suspended. No other major business would be allowed to continue trading in Switzerland on the promise of a change of leader after police unearthed “corruption to be rampant, systemic and deep-rooted”.
Swiss law makers have the power to shut Fifa down as they would any other Swiss-registered firm flouting national and international law on such a vast scale.
Why Fifa is allowed to carry on regardless baffles us all. One theory is that a new independent body would scrutinise the existing World Cup contracts for Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 for wrongdoing.
If anything illegal was discovered, both would be stripped of the competition. That scenario worries western governments. They fear stripping Russia would upset president Putin’s Kremlin, which might seek revenge by muddying further the long road to peace in Syria.
The political will to take 2022 away from Qatar is also wilting because the oil-rich Qataris are piping barrels of sovereign wealth into struggling western economies.
A rumour doing the rounds is the woman leading the legal war on Fifa US attorney general Loretta Lynch, is under international political pressure to temper her dragnet to help save face in Russia and Qatar.
The clear-cut, logical case to abolish Fifa to save football is, alas, anything but.