Sunday 25 June 2017

We can now stop blaming football's ills on one man

A cameraman stands in front of FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland October 8, 2015. FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his possible successor, UEFA chief Michel Platini, have been provisionally suspended for 90 days by the global soccer body's ethics committee. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
A cameraman stands in front of FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland October 8, 2015. FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his possible successor, UEFA chief Michel Platini, have been provisionally suspended for 90 days by the global soccer body's ethics committee. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
Michel Platini
Sepp Blatter
Outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter sits in the back of a car as he leaves the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, Thursday, Oct 8, 2015, after he was provisionally banned for 90 days by FIFA ethics committee. (Dominic Steinmann/Keystone via AP)

Paul Hayward

Gold, silver, bronze. With world football's three most powerful administrators now on the podium of alleged infamy, FIFA has ceased to exist in any moral or bureaucratic sense and needs to be taken over by the Swiss government like a failing bank.

There are no grounds for thinking elections, a change of leadership or 'reform' from within can change a culture embedded over decades.

To call it a tide of scandal is misleading. FIFA has not been struck by evidence suddenly called into being. The crooked city-state presided over by Sepp Blatter has its foundations on a swamp that dates back to 1974 and the start of Joao Havelange's reign. For 40 years or more FIFA gorged itself on the world's favourite sport.

The catharsis, proclaimed many times before, is really here. And with Michel Platini's ban, they can all stop whispering that this is a problem of Blatter's cronies in the developing world. The Europeans tried to pretend that global 'patronage' was at the root of the malaise. Lesser African, Asian and South American states were keeping Blatter in power: guaranteeing him their votes in return for money and influence.

Now, with Platini offering a risible explanation for FIFAs nine-year delay in paying him €1.8m for 'consultancy' work, football's crisis of governance is being felt in the heart of Europe, at a body that manages the Champions League, the world's greatest club competition, and will stage the next international tournament: Euro 2016, in Platini's homeland.

Besides European probity (he denies wrongdoing), another theory to have taken a hit is that Platini is a 'football man' whose dream is to save the game from charlatans. On his own divine path to Blatter's job, Platini presented himself as the soul of football; a majestic former player with the brains and the charisma to outflank career bureaucrats at FIFA House.

Wronged

Until, that is, we learnt that he took two million Swiss francs from FIFA shortly after electing not to challenge Blatter for the presidency last time around.

Perhaps, most importantly, we can now dispense with the notion that the head never knew what the body was doing. Blatter's schtick has been to play the wronged grandfather whose family has betrayed him.

There are no solutions from within an organisation that had to be forced to confront its own venality, and which dispatched the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar in a bidding process that stank to heaven. The English FA, which continues to back Platini's candidacy for the FIFA presidency, now makes the astonishing suggestion that the FIFA executive committee should meet in extraordinary session to discuss the mess. Like Greg Dyke's embarrassing endorsement of Platini, the FA's belief that a FIFA meeting is what is needed points to a complete misunderstanding of the scale and depth of the scandal. It assumes, too, that a group of solid citizens can be assembled at FIFA HQ to take the next step.

Too late for that. The final proof these problems are endemic is the interim appointments made after Blatter and Platini (Uefa) were provisionally suspended, along with Jerome Valcke, the FIFA general secretary - the three men on the podium (all protest their innocence). FIFA are now in the hands of a man, Issa Hayatou, censured by the International Olympic Committee for receiving money he claims was for his Confederation of African Football.

Meanwhile Uefa is defying FIFA, backing Platini and refusing to appoint as its caretaker Spain's Angel Maria Villar Llona, who tried to block the original Garcia probe into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

To football fans, FIFA must resemble that scene in Martin Scorsese's 'Casino', where, beyond the glitz of the gaming floor, the takings are bundled up in a counting room and packed off to mobster stakeholders. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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