The scandal creeps ever closer to Sepp Blatter, with his trusted lieutenant Jerome Valcke the latest person to be drawn into the controversy.
How long can Blatter last? His re-election to the FIFA Presidency was always a forgone conclusion, given the ludicrous system of giving each of the more than 200 members however peripheral and obscure just the one vote.
I was glad to see that not every commentator fell for the manifest nonsense that such subsidies as FIFA donates can keep football afloat in far flung countries when the high probability is – Zambia being a plain illustration – that money simply goes into the pockets of corrupt administrators.
Meanwhile, it was appalling to see France among those countries which persisted in voting for Blatter, the more ironic in that their own Michel Platin as President of UEFA is at last leading a campaign against Blatter whom – some hope! – he was asked to resign.
As it says in the Bible, there is more joy in one sinner that repenteth – but the fact that Platini enthusiastically voted for Qatar even when that meant it would be a summer 50 degrees centigrade tournament, then utterly betrayed his role as UEFA chief by endorsing the shift of the tournament to the European winter with all the inevitable disruption – has permanently tarnished his reputation. Even if it appears that he was responding to pressure from the then President of France, the ever controversial Nicolas Sarkozy, who needed Qatar’s oil and gas. Surely the honourable thing for Platini to have done, caught as he was between the upper and the nether millstone, was to resign from UEFA.
So can Blatter still be safe? My feeling is that he will be brought down only when the Americans are in a position to charge him, putting an end to his deeply unconvincing “Not me, Guv,” posture. Even if he never touched a penny of the dirty money that was swirling round, the idea that he knew nothing about it challenged credulity.
His nemesis could well be the appalling Jack Warner on whom in the past he conferred – in the most affectionate terms – so many privileges and bonuses. To be read about in emetic detail in Andrew Jennings’ formidable investigation, Foul! Which made it plain that Warner could get pretty much what he wanted out of Blatter through his control of the CONCACAF votes.
Ominiously for Blatter, Warner has said, “If I have been the villain for thirty years, who gave me the money? How come he is not charged? Why only persons from Third World countries have been charged?”
Blatter would doubtless argue that whatever he gave Warner – whether tournaments which were mishandled or subsidies for stadia – never benefited him financially however important the votes were to fortifying his position as FIFA President.
Blatter, as we now know thanks to the remarkable Sunday Times insight investigation, was also able to see off the challenge of Bin Hammam, exploiting his close relationship with the Emir of Qatar who in his presence simply told Bin Hammam to call off his dogs. Bin Hammam as we know has been found bang to rights and suspended – even by FIFA! – for trying to buy Caribbean votes through Jack Warner. Needless to say Qatar claim that despite his powerful presiding role in their football, he was, having left it, acting entirely on his own initiative.
But other ugly creatures are now crawling out from under stones. With Jack Warner yet again involved. Astonishing to discover now that the South Africans seem to have bought their way to the 2010 World Cup with a $10 million bribe conveyed to Warner through – believe it or not – FIFA themselves. Of course, Blatter knew nothing about that; it is rumoured that the payment was authorised – though who knows why?- by the dubious Argentinian grand panjandrum, the late Senor Julio Grondona (or was it Jerome Valcke?).
That it was paid well after South Africa were awarded the tournament as the South Africans now plaintively tell us seems neither here nor there. And the idea that the money went to Warner with the intention of helping CONCACAF is simply laughable.
Clever dick political columnists have joined in the controversy, not always sagaciously, their mastery of the facts being dubious. One of them derides the failed English bid for the 2018 tournament suggesting that the pitiful result of just one vote, plus their own, was in part the consequence of the supposed arrogance of the English bid.
Far be it from me to defend the overall highly expensive ineptitude of those who supervised that bid, not least the nauseating grovelling to Warner and his like, but in fact England, with its all seated stadia would have been an ideal host for the 2018 World Cup. To support implicitly the Russian bid as this commentator did is to show a profound ignorance of the situation; Russia’s endemic racism in its football, the money reportedly paid (not yet denied) to the likes of Beckenbauer. A
ttempts to enlist such as Warner to England’s cause, even involving David Cameron and Prince William, were contemptible. But that doesn’t make the Russian bid any more hygienic than Qatar’s, however powerful and popular soccer may be in Putin’s sinister country.