Jim Boyce was every inch the proud father in Istanbul last night. The Ulsterman is chairman of FIFA’s organising committee for the World Under-20 Youth Cup and was in his element at the baptismal draw for this summer’s finals in Turkey.
Intriguing to think that Boyce is walking history: it is probable that he will prove the last man to hold the status of British vice-president of the world federation.
The reform process being guided towards conclusion at Congress in Mauritius on May 30 and 31 contains a recommendation that the British VP be consigned to the dustbin of history. Reform leader Theo Zwanziger has never countenanced a continuance of the privileges of a bygone era.
His desire to reconfigure the law-making International Board has been thwarted but the British VP is an easier target and will become a ‘mere’ UEFA possession if the latest diluted reform package is voted through by Congress.
This is not, it should be noted, a foregone conclusion. Amending statutes demands a three-quarter vote of approval and it may be that conversative influences lead to a package of recommendations being put forward.
Then: Kill one, kill them all.
In the Machiavellian world of sports politics any outcome is possible, depending on the whim and will of the puppet-master.
Here at the Grand Tarabya Hotel Boyce oversaw the draw after some brisk opening remarks in which he talked up the competition’s status, paid warm tribute to the Turkish hosts and set the players a sports-value challenge in little more than three sentences.
Then it was over to Jerome Valcke & Co to do the business with the goldfish bowls (Top marks, by the way, to Fatih Terim. The previous day he come out to welcome a visiting Olympic delegation, now here he was assisting at the World Youth draw. Many managers would have used the excuse of a forthcoming tie against Real Madrid as an excuse to stay home).
Afterwards Boyce strolled around the host city presentation desks and happily took time out for photographs with all manner of competing nation officials and tourism staff.
By the time he returns for the finals he may be merely ‘Mr Chairman’ and not ‘Mr Vice-President.’
Britain gained its vice-president in 1946 when Stanley Rous, then FA secretary, negotiated the re-entry of the home nations into a near-bankrupt FIFA.
In return for a match between Britain and FIFA – to inject some cash into FIFA’s war-emptied coffers – he obtained a statutory confirmation of the independence of the four home nations plus the British vice-presidency.
The post has become a source of increasing friction. The Football Association has resented being continually outvoted in terms of a candidate because this has, effectively, blocked any English football representative from sitting at FIFA’s top table.
Geoff Thompson, the most recent Englishman, was parachuted in only because the previous Scottish nominee raised concerns about exco corruption before, injudiciously and unfortunately for him, he had been inducted into an exco then containing the likes of Warner, Bin Hammam, Adamu and Co).
The loss of the FIFA vice-presidency thus promises to be more serious in status terms for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Their national teams and clubs are never seen in the business end of major tournaments (Celtic’s progress to the second round of the Champions League was an exception which proved the rule).
Boyce may have to find footballing consolation in this season’s across-the-board successes of ‘his’ Cliftonville.
Ballboy to FIFA vice-president. Pretty good. Just that the rest of the footballing world may not be prepared to give this one ball back.
By Keir Radnedge