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Keir RadnedgeSepp Blatter has confirmed that – for better or worse, whatever may or may not have been achieved – FIFA’s reform process comes to a full stop on Friday, May 31.

That is the day set aside for business at the world football federation’s 2013 Congress in Mauritius.

FIFA’s president also wants all the world’s 209 national associations to adopt these changes themselves. This may shock various FAs which consider their internal administration far superior to that of a world federation forced into reform only by a cascade of scandals.

In an end-of-year interview with Aljazeera, Blatter set out first the enormous challenge facing FIFA in its mission not only to develop the sport worldwide but use it for good of society.

He said: “The aim of FIFA is not only to run competitions and develop this game but to try to make a little bit of a better world . . . In Syria and Afghanistan they play organised football despite all the difficulties.

“In Iraq, during the five years of the belligerence not only did they play football but they became Asian champions. We have women’s football in Palestine. So football is connecting people and bringing hope into our world.

“We now have 209 national association members which is more than the United Nations and organised football is played in all corners of the world.

“To organise it you need administration, organisation, coaches, referees and sports medicine and we have invested in that from the very beginning when I started to work in FIFA. Fortunately we have economic partners – called sponsors though I say partners – and we have had big help from another item which has revolutionised the world and that’s television.”

The money flooding into football created the ‘conflicts of interest’ which resulted in a string of scandals surrounding senior, powerful figures within FIFA such as former president Joao Havelange, former vice-presidents Jack Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam and executive members such as Ricardo Teixeira, Reynald Temarii and Amos Adamu.

Hence the demand for reform which even Blatter could no longer resist once he had been re-elected in 2011 for his current – fourth – four-year term as president.

Reviewing the reform process he said: “In Congress in 2011 I proposed that we shall have a look in three different matters.

“The one was transparency in finances, another one was to improve the organisation of the ethics committee and the third one to have better governance in all the organisations in football.

“We are now in the last phase of this implementation and at the congress in 2013 we shall be at the end of this reform process.”

Then he added his caution that FIFA’s own reforms should be copied through all national associations. This would apply, presumably, right down to issues such as age and term limits should Congress adopt such proposals.

Blatter said: “[The FIFA reform] is the tip of the pyramid. If we want it to work throughout the whole pyramid these must be established in all the national associations and in the confederations.

“This must come. It must be the decision in congress in 2013 because if it cannot be that only FIFA should have one [particular] control system. It’s like in all countries: these things should go through all provinces and all communities.”

Blatter then added his standard homily that football cannot be held responsible for society’s ills.

He said: “It is easy to control football on the field: you have a referee, a time limit and boundaries. But, outside the field of play you have no referee, no time limit and no boundaries and football cannot be responsible for all the villainies that happen in the world.

“[People say] if there is corruption somewhere [in the game] ‘it is all football’; if there is violence ‘it’s all football. No – because football is just part of society and it’s because our game is so popular that it is a victim of all these villainies.

“We have to fight against that but that cannot come only from the top.”

What Blatter did not say, but his listeners might have considered: FIFA needs as much credibility as possible to undertake whatever may be its own limited responsibilities, particularly if the mission, as Blatter said, is “to try to make a little bit of a better world.”

By Keir Radnedge

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