It’s starting to look as if Fifa is heading for a presidential race based on the principle of “least corrupt standing” rather than actual administrative credentials. Surely the embattled governing body has to accept outside intervention sooner rather than later? By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
The bony fingers of the law have slowly started to tighten around Fifa’s dictators. When Jack Warner was banned for life recently, it looked like Fifa might have found a scapegoat, somebody they can hang out to dry and use as proof that they are cleaning up. But Swiss authorities had other plans. They had recently opened a criminal investigation into Sepp Blatter and Uefa chief Michel Platini. That in itself does not imply guilt, but it does imply that something smells a little off.
Fifa’s Ethics Committee, not exactly known for having a strong backbone, had no choice but to act and on Thursday, they did. Blatter, Platini and the already-on-forced-leave Jerome Valcke were all suspended for 90 days, pending further investigation. The charges against them all are serious but that the snake has briefly cut off its own head actually means little. In fact, it only underscores how desperately Fifa is in need of complete and total reform, something which has been demanded by the International Olympics Committee.
Platini was one of the favourites to take over from Blatter but has been thrown under the bus with his pal and because of him. It is the investigation of a 2011 payment to him by Blatter of 2-million Swiss francs which has led to him being given the boot. Valcke has already made headlines for his part in a ticketing scam and his alleged involvement in the payment of an alleged $10-million bribe paid by South Africa to help secure the 2010 World Cup hosting rights.
Then there is Korean Chung Mong-joon, a former member of the Fifa executive committee who has been banned from football for six years over his alleged involvement in another “football development fund”. The man himself is protesting the ban and the fine, saying the charges against him stemmed from his “support” for South Korea’s 2022 World Cup bid. Apparently all of the fallout involving him is about the launch of a “Global Football Fund” which Chung says was in line with Fifa’s rules and had already been investigated. Chung that he is being “targeted” because he is running for the Fifa presidency.
Two out of the tree candidates running for the Fifa presidency have thus effectively been knocked out before the race has even really started and therein lies the greatest bit of introspection Fifa will ever have to wake up to.
The organisation which has slowly but surely started to collapse under mountains of corruption charges and investigations can no longer trust itself to take care of its own reform matters because the very men who are pushing for reform are as bad as the men they are pushing out.
For Fifa to truly change, reinforcements must be brought in from outside, something which International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has called for.
“Enough is enough. We hope that now, finally, everyone at Fifa has at last understood that they cannot continue to remain passive. They must act swiftly to regain credibility because you cannot forever dissociate the credibility of Fifa from the credibility of football.
“Fifa must realise that this is now about more than just a list of candidates. This is also a structural problem and will not be solved simply by the election of a new president. They must do two things immediately: they must accelerate and deepen the reform process in order to comply with accountability, transparency and all the principles of good governance, as expressed in our reform programme, Olympic Agenda 2020.
“They should also be open for a credible external presidential candidate of high integrity, to accomplish the necessary reforms and bring back stability and credibility to Fifa.”
Instead, Issa Hayatou will be the stand-in president. The Cameroonian, who is head of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), will take over while Blatter is suspended. Hayatou says he will not be standing for the main gig come February, though. He doesn’t exactly have squeaky clean credentials. He has previously been sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee in 2011, and has been the subject of bribery allegations by a Qatar-bid whistleblower. He’s also changed some of the CAF rules to ensure he can hold onto his position of power, which he has held since 1988. A nicely-worded statement was sent out on his behalf, but that he is the second in command – and has seemingly escaped scrutiny thus far – tells you everything you need to know about just what a hot mess Fifa is, but those words are nothing more than polished turds which the man himself probably doesn’t believe. Credibility is non-existent in Fifa’s upper echelons, but it did not get here on its own.
It is a culture of disregard that has been cultivated through years of denial, underscored by the fact that the British Football Association have insisted they will continue to back Platini in the presidential race despite his suspension, while they “await results of the ethics committee and Swiss attorney-general”.
But this cannot continue. A presidential race based on “least corrupt standing” rather than actual credentials should surely push this whole sordid saga to its tipping point. DM
Photo: A picture combo showing from left FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke (picture taken 28 September 2012 in Zurich), FIFA President Sepp Blatter (picture taken 30 May 2015 in Zurich) and UEFA President Michel Platini (picture taken 29 August 2014 in Monaco). FIFA president Joseph Blatter, vice-president and UEFA president Michel Platini and general secretary Jerome Valcke are provisionally banned for 90 days by FIFA ethics committee on 08 October 2015. A statement said the duration of the bans may be extended for an additional period not exceeding 45 days – which would cover the FIFA extraordinary congress to elect a successor to Blatter in Zurich on 26 EPA/ALESSANDRO DELLA BELLA/ENNIO LEANZA/SEBASTIEN NOGIER