The Recent Ongoings
The world governing body of football, FIFA, has long been dogged by allegations of dodgy dealings and corruption allegations, yet no one saw it coming when the FBI arrested seven of the organisation’s top officials on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
It has rocked the football world to its core, yet it didn’t stop FIFA from ploughing on with its recent Presidential elections, which saw Sepp Blatter re-elected as El Presidente of an organisation rumoured to be as corrupt as the mafia.
Blatter has been unopposed in his leadership of FIFA until recently, when numerous candidates stood in opposition of him whilst promoting a campaign of cleaning up the organisation from the top down.
The ex Barcelona and Real Madrid player Luis Figo withdrew from the Presidential election race in disgust, saying, “[This is] a plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man…It is anything but an election”.
The only man who did stand in opposition to Blatter at the election itself was Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, who won 73 votes compared to Blatter’s 133, forcing a second round of voting. Prince Ali withdrew his application before the voting could take place, though, as the way the voting system was set-up meant that Blatter was guaranteed to win anyway.
The football world shook its head, then, when Blatter was once again elected to the most powerful position in football and seemed likely to keep his cronies happy, despite 7 of them being arrested or charged.
When Sepp Blatter called a press conference on the 2nd of June everyone associated with football held its breath. Surely he wasn’t going to walk away, was he?
Blatter told the gathered press that “my mandate does not appear to be supported by everyone”, before saying that he planned to stand down as President of FIFA. Cue reactions of both shock and rejoice on Twitter and other social media.
Yet none of it is quite as positive as it first seemed, given that Blatter plans to remain in charge of FIFA until his replacement is elected, and that isn’t due to take place any time soon. In fact, the next FIFA congress isn’t due to take part until May 2016.
Blatter has said that waiting until then will create “unnecessary delay” and that he plans to “urge the executive committee to organise an extraordinary congress for the election of my successor at the earliest opportunity”.
Even with such plans being put into motion it is unlikely to result in an extraordinary congress until December at the earliest, possibly more like February or March of 2016. All of which will result in Blatter remaining in charge for at least a couple of months more. On the extraordinary congress Blatter said, “This will need to be done in line with FIFA’s statutes and we must allow enough time for the best candidates to present themselves and to campaign”.
The 79-year-old has been in charge of FIFA for 40 years, and his decision to step down was made reluctantly. Yet it seems as though the corruption scandal that has ripped apart the heart of the organisation has also got to its head.
The BBC’s Richard Conway felt that Blatter didn’t want to leave this way. He genuinely felt that he could still “bring FIFA and football back together”, but that, according to Conway, wilfully ignored the “huge weight of the allegations that stood against the organisation”, meaning that “in the end Blatter’s position became untenable”.
Cutting The Head Off The Snake
Blatter’s resignation isn’t going to make much of a difference to the day-to-day running of FIFA. He said his resignation was in the “best interest of football”, but he also intends to be the driving force behind “far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend or previous efforts…For years we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that, while these must continue, they are not enough. We need deep-rooted structural change”.
No one will disagree with Blatter’s words, but most people will be deeply suspicious of his lack of actions over the previous 40 years. To say nothing of the fact that his closest allies and cronies seem to have benefitted hugely in a financial sense from him remaining in power.
Reports claim that FIFA’s General Secretary Jerome Valcke was responsible for an alleged payment of a $10 million bribe regarding South Africa’s bid to host the 2010 World Cup. There are also suggestions that Swiss authorities will be opening investigations into how both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were allocated.
If both of those things turn out to be true then the corruption at FIFA is deep-rooted and astonishing. It also means that cutting the head off the snake may not make too much of a difference to the way things happen at the top of the world’s most popular sport’s governing body.
Who Can Take Over From Blatter?
There are sure to be a number of runners and riders looking to take over from Sepp Blatter at the top of FIFA. As we’ve already said, it will take more than just a new President to root out the corruption that has wheedled itself into the heart of the organisation, but the important thing is that the members elect the person who’s willing to do the dirty work and sort out the dirtiness that has pervaded every part of the place.
Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein
The Jordanian was beaten by Blatter in the Presidential election last week and has always sworn that he is “always there to serve football”. He said, “I think…the most important thing [is] to fix this organisation in a proper way”. He is the bookie’s favourite to take over, especially given that he is the only person that took Blatter all the way in the recent election.
Platini is the President of FIFA’s european equivalent, UEFA. He already has experience of running one of football’s top organisations and has been encouraging Blatter to stand down for some time. The 59-year-old has always maintained that he wouldn’t stand against Blatter, but with the Swiss’s resignation it’s possible he might now decide the time is right to push himself to the top of the game. If Platini stands it seems likely that Bin al-Hussein will struggle to get the votes necessary as everyone turns to the head of UEFA to lead them out of the dark times.
Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al Sabah
He is a Kuwaiti sports powerbroker and is reportedly already the chief voice in both Olympic circles and Asian football. He has been elected to FIFA’s executive committee and could well soak up the Blatter loyalists if he makes the decision to stand.
Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa
He’s the head of the Asian football confederation and has close ties to Al Sabah. If he decides to stand and gets backing from his Kuwaiti friend then he might turn out to be a force to be reckoned with. Given al-Hussein failed to win the support of Asia in his recent tilt at the Presidency, Al Khalifa might fancy his chances of taking on the Prince.
Michael Van Praag
The head of the Dutch FA was originally in the running to stand against Blatter in the most recent elections, but he decided to withdraw in order to throw his support behind Prince Ali. He isn’t one of the better know candidates, so it seems likely that he’ll struggle to get much support from outside of Europe.
The ex-Newcastle player and French international was something of a joke candidate at the most recent election, receiving £250,000 from Paddy Power in order to fund his Presidential bid. He’s confirmed that he will run again this time, making it clear that he sees investigating the awarding of the Qatar and Russia World Cups as an absolute priority. His chances are slim seeing as though he didn’t receive a single nomination this time around, but he could get involved just to keep things honest.
Issa is the head of the incredibly powerful bloc of African football federations and could get most if not all of their votes if he decides to stand. He’s struggled with ill-health, though, and may not be completely clean of the same controversy that has taken down so many people in the organisation, so he may decide it’s easier to not stand at all and avoid any unwanted publicity.
The ex-Manchester United Chief Executive and Vice-Chairman of The Football Association was elected as the Vice-President of FIFA, but rejected the position in protest over Blatter’s re-election. He is still on the FIFA Executive Committee, though, and may well take up his place as the Vice-President now that Blatter has announced his resignation. He’s declared that he doesn’t intend to run and, of course, plenty of the footballing world still dislikes England immensely. But if he doesn’t feel that there is a genuinely viable candidate then don’t be shocked if he throws his hat into the ring.
There is so much to be done at FIFA that it might almost be more beneficial to disband the organisation and start all over again. But there are too many people who would stand to lose out to make that a serious proposition.
A lot of what is to come will depend on whether or not Michael Platini decides to stand, but if he doesn’t then the wise money will surely be placed on Prince Ali.
It may well be a bit of a scramble and a bunfight to decide who replaces Blatter, and it isn’t likely to be dealt with any time soon. For now, keep your eye out for more revelations and expect them to continue to shock the footballing world to its very core.