Home And Away: A worthy cause, but is New Fifa Now already doomed?

Pressure group is well placed to make serious assault on ruling body, however, it may be just too late

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 January, 2015, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 January, 2015, 11:22pm

The 750th anniversary of the first British parliament of elected representatives was celebrated this week, sparking lively debates about democracy's past and present, its role and its future.

The landmark event also inspired a global audience to share their eyewitness accounts of democracy in action over the past seven days.

From Sri Lanka to Paris, Chechnya to Nepal, Liberia to Germany, Bahrain to London and the US, hundreds of people were shown exercising their democratic right to protest and demand a say in how their lives are governed.

Is it likely to spark a "Football Spring"? Probably not because it has left it too late to usurp Blatter and his clique of power bases

Football was at it, too.

At the European parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, the "New Fifa Now" pressure group launched a petition urging fans and those with power to influence to sign up and join the fight to save the game from the endless controversies and allegations of bribery and corruption at the heart of Fifa's governance.

Fifa's image problem, declared British MP Damian Collins, had reached a tipping point and it was time for those who love the game to stand up and act.

Collins has form when it comes to toppling inept sports chiefs who allow tyranny to flourish on their watch.

He, after all, was the main man behind the campaign to depose Pat McQuaid of the International Cycling Union presidency in 2013 after the Lance Armstrong scandal.

Now Collins has helped band together an international collation of the willing drawn from a slew of institutions and organisations, including FAs and fan groups, big business and parliaments.

They include David Triesman, the former chairman of the English FA and a member of Britain's House of Lords, as well as Fifa presidential candidate Jerome Champagne and possible candidate Harold Mayne-Nicholls of Chile.

Jaimie Fuller, chairman of the sportswear brand Skins, vowed to put pressure on sponsors to reconcile the corporate social responsibility promises they make in their annual reports with the US$1.5 billion they pour into Fifa coffers every four years.

Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, who intends to challenge incumbent Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency in May, sent his apologies for not attending because as president of the Jordan FA, he was engaged at the AFC Asian Cup tournament in Australia.

Triesman, who oversaw England's failed bid to stage the 2018 World Cup, said football had reached "the absurd situation where the leaders of the world game go around as if they were the heads of state".

The Fifa regime has the blissful arrogance and ignorance that undid the Russian tsarist autocracy a century ago and brought 18th Century revolt against the narcissist French royal court.

There was certainly a revolutionary and steely air of determination among the reformists as they unveiled their plans.

Bonita Mersiades, the former member of the Australian FA and a member of their failed bid to host the 2022 World Cup, drew parallels between bringing down Fifa and the fall of the Iron Curtain.

The time had passed for evolution, he said - "what was needed was a revolution". At the launch, he reminded the audience with all the zeal of a 1980s Polish shipyard union steward that "people tore down the Berlin Wall".

"It's time for us to do the same and rebuild a new Fifa," he urged.

You couldn't help don, amid Mersiades' tub-thumping, an imaginary beret, adopt a noble Che Guevara gaze and ask Google maps for the quickest route to Fifa's gilded gates of its headquarters in Zurich.

The group has on its website in five languages - including Chinese - a "Charter for Fifa Reform" and a 10-point plan for change, which includes establishing a dialogue with Fifa's Reform Commission.

There was a smattering of low-ranking Fifa officials watching silently, yet they were in no mood for a public natter.

The rebels' nemesis, Blatter, was not invited.

"He is part of the problem, not part of the solution," asserted Collins.

Fifa's main sponsors - Coca-Cola, Visa, Adidas, McDonald's and Castrol - were asked to attend, but did not even bother responding to the invites, busy as they were milking the obedient Fifa cash cow.

This powerless, but influential pressure group is the strongest challenge to Fifa's authority since it was formed 111 years ago.

Is it likely to spark a "Football Spring"? Probably not because it has left it too late to usurp Blatter and his clique of power bases - those with Fifa presidential voting rights - in Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean by May's ballot.

Before we bury our heads in this weekend's FA Cup programmes and dismiss "New Fifa Now" as a worthy yet hopeless cause, it is worth noting that 21st century revolutions start with an online click, and signing the petition - at www.newfifanow.org - will at least show solidarity with our fellow democracy lovers protesting against far more important issues.