UEFA has cancelled its emergency meeting after seeing its initial ambition achieved with the impending departure of Sepp Blatter from the FIFA presidency.
A summit of leaders of all the members of the European federation had been called for Friday in Berlin, on the eve of the almost-forgotten Champions League Final, after Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term at the head of world football last Friday.
However Blatter’s shock announcement yesterday that he planned to step down as soon as an emergency elective congress could be organised has removed the immediate need for urgent talks.
Instead UEFA president Michel Platini will need to sit down with the friends, senior officials and strategists and think over whether he should stand himself to become Blatter’s successor.
The Frenchman said: “It is with great concern that I, like most football fans around the world, have been following the daily developments regarding the investigations pertaining to FIFA corruption matters.
“Due to yesterday’s announcement and the uncertain and unpredictable nature of the investigations, I have decided that it would be more appropriate to postpone the meeting that was announced last week, and which could have taken place in Berlin this weekend.
“Considering new information is revealed every day, I believe it is wiser to take time to assess the situation, so together we can take a position on this issue.
“There will be other opportunities for us to meet in the coming weeks and by then hopefully more light will have been shed on this matter.
“During the weekend in Berlin, we will aim to focus our attention on one of many great occasions at UEFA, the UEFA Champions League final.”
Platini said last year that he believed he was the only candidate who might have been able to raise enough votes to defeat Blatter. However he had always insisted that he would never challenge his mentor in international football administration.
European pressure for reform has been supported by Australian football supremo Frank Lowy. In an open letter Lowy, president of Football Federation Australia and a driving force behind the game’s domestic development, also tried to explain the underlying complexities of a World Cup bid.
Australian sport remains bitter that Australia’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup finals received just one vote from among the FIFA executive committee which ultimately awarded them to Qatar.
The Australian bid subsequently faced heavy criticism over a financial donation to a Caribbean football project. A similar grant, in this case for $10m from South Africa, features in the corruption indictment handed down last week by the United States Justice Department.
First, dealing with Blatter’s resignation, Lowy hoped it would “open the door to major reform” but cautioned that “FIFA’s problems are deep-rooted and tangled [and] it will take a united, concerted effort by its football associations to fix the mess.”
Recalling the vain World Cup bid Lowy Lowy explained that FIFA bid guidelines “had required us to demonstrate a commitment to international football, particularly through projects in developing countries.”
Hence outreach, in some cases with the Australian Government, to countries such as Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, East Timor and South Africa.
Lowy added: “The donation which has received most attention was to CONCACAF [the central/north American confederation]. This was to fund a feasibility study to develop its Centre of Excellence in Trinidad & Tobago. The man behind the centre was the president of CONCACAF, Jack Warner.”
Only later did it emerge that the A$500,000 had been had been misappropriated. Hence, ever since then, Australia had been working behind the scenes to bring about change.
FIFA’s World Cup sponsors have also offered a guardedly welcome response to Blatter’s resignation.
Adidas, which has been working with FIFA one way or another since 1970, said his decision “marks a step in the right direction on FIFA’s path to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do.”
The sportwear corporation’s comment was echoed by McDonald’s and Coca-Cola while Visa – recently the most critical of FIFA – looked forward to it “rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices.”
** Jeffrey Webb, the FIFA vice-president detained in Switzerland on a United States extradition warrant, has been replaced “provisionally” as head of the Cayman Islands Football Association after 24 years.