Football. What a game. As Gary Lineker once so aptly put it, “Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” Well in the contest that has just broken out this morning, FIFA versus the World, the Germans and the rest of the world look like winning.
Sepp Blatter, the Teflon FIFA President for the past 25 years looks like finally getting egg on his face if not all down his shirt (yellow card if he takes it off). So far 14 FIFA officials have been arrested by the FBI . . . not a scenario many of us would fancy . . . for offences against the world in charges as broad as racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. So pretty much an official condemnation of the self-pointed ruling body from the head down. Of course the Head hasn’t actually been charged with anything. In fact in a wonderful twist on reality, the FIFA website boasts the lead message, “FIFA is fully cooperating as injured party.” So lets not count our chickens but in this game of two halves, Blatter is the dominating Captain and Captains often lead by example.
So where does this leave the brand in this World game as the tattered FIFA flag flaps frantically above the cloistered bunker that is its HQ? Sponsors such as Adidas (Germans again) are making very unappreciative sound regarding its association with a corrupted organisation. How long before the other Global partners – Coca-Cola, Gazprom, Hyundai and Visa decide that the tainting by association is too foul a smell to carry around?
The furore that followed the World Cup hosting wins to Russia and then perversely Qatar, rattled too many cages even for Blatter. In consumer speak – he pissed off too many customers. How thin its motto – For the game, for the world – sounds, as the greed and recklessness of individuals starts to play out. And I stress this in quasi Churchillian tones, this is not the end, this is not the beginning of the end, it is the beginning of the beginning.
Investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, who has had his searching claws into FIFA for the past decade, revealed on radio this morning that the FBI investigation will go back years. Jennings, who wears the badge of honour of being the only press man banned from FIFA events, stated that the ripple will become a tremor and then a quake with the fallout being that Blatters’ legacy of Russia and Qatar will not materialise. If this systemic abuse of power and personal interest is true, what is the future for FIFA?
Noises that the Friday vote to elect a new President are still going ahead have the journos bristling, for the fear that Blatter will dodge every flying bullet and sink a sixth term in office. Yet over the next 24 hours how many ‘clean’ FIFA folk will want to run the risk of associating with the current regime? By Friday lunchtime it could have a cricket score (forgive the sporting pun brevity) of further officials being marched out under blankets to the shadowy recesses of FBI question zones. So a blanket blanking of Blatter could herald a brave new world.
One man waits in the wings, Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan. His Royal Highness stands as the sole opponent to Blatter, and on a clear platform of ‘responsibility and not passing the blame’, has the perfect timing to press home his steely shibriya into the incumbent’s discomfort. Desperate, strong and fast action needs to be taken. If the President is the equivalent of a CEO, the Prince (assuming coronation) needs to peel back the layers of suspicion and restate FIFA’s primary objective “to improve the game of football constantly and promote it globally in the light of its unifying, educational, cultural and humanitarian values, particularly through youth and development programmes”. It doesn’t say anything about lining the electorate’s pockets.