Sunday 25 September 2016

Blatter done by damn democracy

Dion Fanning

Published 01/11/2015 | 17:00

That Was The Week cartoon
That Was The Week cartoon

The first rule of politics, according to Lyndon Johnson, is knowing how to count. As we learn more about FIFA and their ways, thanks in part to Sepp Blatter's decision to unburden himself in his time of need, we see that there were other competing rules in the densely political world of FIFA.

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Knowing how to count might have been less important in a world where there were arrangements that would circumvent the counting. There was a "gentleman's agreement", as Blatter put it in his interview with the Financial Times on Friday, that the World Cup would go to Russia in 2018 and the USA in 2022. "It was behind the scenes. It was diplomatically arranged to go there," he explained.

In front of the scenes, lots of people were getting quite excited about how they were doing in the bidding process, even if the excitement always seemed misplaced. It is hard to forget the giddiness in England when it was announced in the days leading up to the vote in 2010 that Vladimir Putin had decided not to travel to Zurich.

Some wondered if Putin was running scared and didn't want to be associated with defeat. They pointed out that David Beckham, Prince William and David Cameron had been impressing many with their diplomatic skills and this might have alarmed Putin.

Putin claimed he was staying away in protest at the smearing of members of the executive committee, and in aligning himself with them, we glimpsed how things would probably work out.

It would be a shame for FIFA if it became known that the process in which members of their executive committee were wooed, and in some instances agreed to accept money, for their votes turned out to be unnecessary.

Hurray then for the vote in December 2010 which was a triumph for openness and transparency, and a slap on the wrist for the type of backroom deal Blatter had been trying to push through.

Whatever Blatter was proposing behind the scenes, it could not compete with the effective campaign run by Qatar and, Blatter claims, the "governmental interference of Mr Sarkozy".

Because of this vote for Qatar, Blatter's career has been altered. He would, he said, have been "on an island on holiday" if the vote had gone as he intended. Instead he is taking this career break, reflecting on success and failures as well as his tendency to be too trusting, to love not wisely but too well.

"The only regret I have is that in my life in football I am a very generous man in my thoughts and I think people are good and then I have realised that most of the time I was, let's say, trapped by people. You trust someone 100 per cent and then you see that all this trust was just to get some advantage. I have done it not only once, I have done it more than once. I have to bear that and I bear it."

Perhaps these things were easier to bear when he had the trapping of office. Blatter hasn't taken a holiday since 1990. "I think that the last real holiday I took was after the 1990 World Cup in Italy. I had a lady girlfriend - always lady girlfriends - and I was touring. She organised a world tour, and this was the last time I had this kind of holiday, and I said never again."

His former partners still believe in him, still think he was "quite a good man", which is as much as any of us would hope to be said of us by our former lady girlfriends.

The more we learn about the audacity of FIFA, the more it seems beyond repair. Maybe they would have been better off coming to a "gentleman's agreement" for all tournaments given that the bidding processes for so many World Cups are now in question.

Alternatively, they could decide that the only way they could safely award tournaments would be to allow an algorithm to generate the perfect host and find the nation most suitable. It would be possible to take the data from all bidding countries and have the machines decide which bid will deliver the best tournament for supporters and players.

In many ways there is no need for the process itself except as a way of confusing the gullible, like Prince William and David Cameron, while the real business takes place elsewhere.

But they are committed to these processes now so it is hard to see how they can really change.

Blatter appears to be bewildered that anyone would think it should be done any other way. On FIFA's payment to Michel Platini, the two men are united. An oral contract is binding in Switzerland so why should it be of concern, except to those who fuss over corporate governance, many of whom reside in the USA and the UK where they're never satisfied anyway?

Platini says he was paid for his consultancy work with FIFA, demonstrating once again that if there is choice to be made between working and offering some consultancy about the work others do, only a fool chooses work.

From the FAI's successful dealings with Blatter, we have already been provided with a greater understanding of how FIFA works. Blatter, of course, had "done a skit" as John Delaney pointed out. Sepp was having "a snigger, having a laugh" and for that and other reasons, the FAI were well compensated.

We haven't heard as much from Delaney in recent times and perhaps that needs to change. As a qualified accountant, he knows how to count so he can be said to have grasped the first rule of politics.

He has appeared to have grasped many other rules of politics too but while his good friend Michel Platini is damaged and may not rise to the FIFA presidency, there is no reason for Delaney's career in global football politics to be checked.

There was a time when they were asking John Delaney if he would consider becoming Blatter's successor. He was the white knight, briefly, before the world became concerned about the payment FIFA had made to the FAI.

But that was a temporary setback. They once laughed at the FAI in FIFA and they came to regret it. We have been well compensated for their sniggering but a wise man said he wishes he could have got more from them for that shameful episode. Let's take them for all they've got. John Delaney for president.

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