“Football and ethics do not mix”

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In what can only be seen as a leave of person ethics, Hans-Joachim Eckert, the German judge deciding what action to take following FIFA’s investigation into alleged corruption surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes, has said he doubted “if football and ethics can still fit together.” This was before yesterday’s announcement that a decision on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups bidding corruption inquiry is unlikely to be made until next spring.

FIFA’s investigation was delivered by New York attorney Michael Garcia at the beginning of this month but one matter Eckert did not address was whether he would make the report public, despite being urged to do so by a number of FIFA executive committee members.

Garcia’s probe into the allegations of bribery lasted more than a year with hundreds of people involved in the bids for the two World Cups interviewed by his team of investigators. The Qatari organisers of the 2022 World Cup have repeatedly said they are confident of being cleared of any wrongdoing in the bidding process for the finals while the Russians have also brushed off suggestions their bid was flawed.

Sadly, for most fans, Eckert says he will limit his verdicts to individuals and in doing so will disappoint critics who support a re-vote for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments adding such a decision would be for FIFA’s ruling executive committee or its congress of 209 federations.

“The judgement may be the base for a decision in sports politics, but we will not make any recommendations. That is not our job,” Eckert said.

It doesn’t do much to inspire confidence in FIFA’s battered reputation but we can but hope. The longer this continues, the greater the inevitable fall will be. If Blatter is elected president again, it will be harder still for FIFA to be seen as an organisation committed to reform because the scandals that have so tarnished its reputation happened under his watch.

But should he publish the investigation into the World Cup bids, reconsider the need for independent oversight and announce World Cup hosts will be voted on by 209 national associations rather than its executive committee, it would at least be a start.

How do you cure a Blatter infection?

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Sepp Blatter, to no great surprise, has announced his intention to stand for a fifth term as Fifa’s president. This despite pledging to retire in 2015 following his reelection in 2011.

Mr Football stated he was urged to stand by a number confederation heads during the World Cup, conveniently when Fifa’s congress rejected calls for age and term limits, and of course his ever-ongoing ‘mission.’

Therefore the logical next step is to run against Sepp and stand in the elction for Fifa President. It didn’t take much Googling to find that it is entirely possible to run for Fifa President and this was attempted four years ago when writer Grant Wahl  attempted to oppose Blatter at the 2011 election.

At the time, Wahl discovered he had every right to run for president under Fifa’s rules, anyone could announce their candidacy but to become an official candidate on the ballot you had to obtain a public nomination from at least one of Fifa’s 208 national federations two months before the election.

His platform endorsed support for common-sense reforms such as goal-line technology, term limits for Fifa officials, bringing women into Fifa governance, and to do a ‘WikiLeaks’ on Fifa, releasing every internal document to the public so we could find out how clean the organisation really was in the wake of the dubious votes for the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Working with Sports Illustrated, he produced this slick campaign video.

As Blatter had already been nominated by the FA of Somalia, the world’s most corrupt country according to Transparency International, Wahl aimed for one of the world’s least corrupt nations for his nomination. Despite contacting 150 associations, none were willing to endorse Wahl’s nomination through fear of negative repercussions from Fifa.

Top officials from a World Cup winning federation admitted to Wahl that federations were influenced not just by Blatter, but also by Uefa President Michel Platini, who lobbied European nations to support Blatter to strengthen his future candidacy for a presidential bid. Nominating a candidate for Fifa president would be a public declaration which was subject to punishment from Blatter and Platini.

No federation, not even England who at least made a statement by abstaining from the vote, was willing to nominate Wahl but his presidential bid could be seen as lighting the touch-paper and the beginning of widespread public interest in Fifa and Blatter who have since implemented some of  Wahl’s suggestions.

So in reality it appears to be impossible for any outsider candidate to even be nominated, let alone actually win the election. Even so I still felt a bid could still be on the cards, after all it would be a half arsed attempt at any rate and the point wouldn’t be about winning, I am the last person you want in charge, but establishing debate and interest.  As it turns out Fifa have, one can only assume in the interests of fairness, openness and democracy,  recently changed the rules around it’s presidential candidates. To stand in the election, candidates now need to be formally nominated by five football associations, not one, and, the clincher, have to have worked in a federation for at least two of the five years prior to the election.

So this afternoon’s dream might be over but hope may not be lost as the former Fifa International Relations Director Jerome Champagne is so far the only other person to say he will stand, although there have been suggestions he may withdraw now Blatter has declared his interest.

 

United Passions

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It’s got an all-star cast and was filmed on a huge budget, yet not everyone is familiar with the upcoming feature film ‘United Passions.’

The movie premiered at Cannes film festival earlier this year and is a portrayal of the history of FIFA. No, seriously! I am not making this up. They have made a movie about FIFA!

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke explained that the film “portrays in an open, self-critical and highly enjoyable way the origins of FIFA … it is FIFA’s aim to promote more direct communication with the world, and especially with fans of football, to ensure that the football community at large does not have a reduced view of FIFA’s mission and objectives … we are very confident that this movie will effectively impact upon FIFA’s image and show positive results”.

The film has already premiered across much of continental Europe but question marks remain over the film’s release date in the UK and America.

To go to such desperate lengths, FIFA must have admitted to itself that the organisation currently has a dire image problem. Yet are they so naive to believe this venture would help shine a more positive light on football’s world governing body? Clearly they are. FIFA hoped that spending millions of dollars of their own money to produce this film will would deliver the public relations win they so badly require.

So how is this charm offensive going? When the vanity project was recently discussed there was outrage among UEFA delegates due to Sepp Blatter committing more than the annual turnover of most of UEFA’s national associations to the film. It has been suggested that the budget FIFA put forward was committed without the knowledge of a number of executive committee members, which will add weight to accusations that Blatter runs the organisation as he sees fit, regardless of what those around him advise.

The film can only be headed for disaster if released in the USA and UK, but unless a wider release is confirmed it is impossible to see how the project can make suitable returns, in the form of either ticket sales or positive PR. Whether the film will ever be shown in the UK is unclear but we can add this to the ever growing list of FIFA’s calamities.