Wednesday 28 September 2016

Football should look outside box for next FIFA boss

Published 03/06/2015 | 02:30

Sepp Blatter leaves the FIFA headquarters in Zurich yesterday after his statement announcing that he would be stepping down as FIFA president
Sepp Blatter leaves the FIFA headquarters in Zurich yesterday after his statement announcing that he would be stepping down as FIFA president
David Ginola has announced that he will once again be running for the FIFA presidency

Within an hour of Sepp Blatter's momentous resignation, football was given a reminder of the road it has to travel.

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David Ginola, whose bid for the FIFA presidency last January earned him a substantial sum of money from a bookmaker, announced that he was back in the running.

The celebrity candidate, who showed little understanding of the issues when placed under examination, has not been deterred from having another crack. Blatter's exit leaves a vacuum and there is a possibility it will turn into a circus.

Prince Ali of Jordan is a more plausible candidate yet the main argument in his favour last Friday was that he was other guy.

And, as one British commentator cleverly pointed out, it would be a welcome development if the 39-year-old's respect for the electoral process led to citizens of his own country being able to pick their ruler.

FIFA have indicated that the process will take a while so, perhaps, there are other outstanding candidates waiting in the wings that we don't know about.

The problem in this game, however, is that the administrators of the sport thrive in a culture where who you know means everything.

After all, Michel Platini's ascent to prominence in the second phase of his football life was inspired by an alliance with Blatter.

This is why any declaration that UEFA set the standard for the future should be treated with caution. It may be repetitive to point out that Platini voted to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but it should never be forgotten.

FIFA have been attacked on two fronts in recent months and it's the historical trail of money and the desire of the FBI and US lawmakers to chase it down that appears to have delivered the knockout punch.

Still, there is a goodwill behind the investigation which is borne from the 2022 decision and that ogre in the future has added momentum to the revulsion towards the FIFA hierarchy.

There should be no place for anyone who reasoned that Qatar was a good idea in the process of cleaning up the mess.

It is clear, however, that European football's governing body sense an opportunity here.

Certainly, Blatter's method of retaining power was fairly transparent: he looked after the small impoverished nations that FIFA never used to care about and earned their loyalty. This carried seriously currency when it came to election time. The policy of 'one country, one vote' was central to his success. European unhappiness was summed up last week by FAI CEO John Delaney.

"The way FIFA works is one country one vote, so Germany has one vote and East Timor has one vote, but that's the democracy approach," said Delaney.

Presumably, the alternative is undemocratic; a dominant role for the bigger nations. Yet, in the same round of interviews, Irish football's long-standing chief pointed out that in UEFA he had the ability to knock on Platini's door and instigate change. East Timor should have an equal opportunity to effect change too.

There is no perfect, ready-made solution here, yet what's abundantly apparent is that changing one man is not going to change a culture.

Blatter presided over a mess that suited him, but it seems that the loudest voices in the search for his successor are keen on an incumbent that suits them.

Europe's call to arms was strengthened by the very real possibility that they would lose another spot in the World Cup thanks to Blatter's determination to spread the love.

He didn't care if his representatives in the respective confederations disgraced themselves and that's why he had to go. There is no coherent defence of his embarrassing tenure in charge.

The principle of one country, one vote is no bad thing, though, if the system is administered properly. Remember, the Qatar decision was reached by an elite executive committee that held too much power.

FIFA would be healthier if they used independent experts to take a central role in deciding the suitability of the options that are being put before the membership. With proper criteria in place, Qatar 2022 would never have made it to the starting blocks.

This can extend to presidents too. It was influential voices from outside that acted as the catalyst for unseating Blatter. That's why there's an argument for looking beyond existing football channels to find his replacement.

Irish Independent

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