One seemingly innocent phrase slipped into the proposals for FIFA reform should have put a smile on the face of Michel Platini at his busiest time of year. Similarly, those same words may infuriate some of the losers from the 2018/2022 World Cup bid battle.
The European federation president handed over the trophy at the Europa League Final in Amsterdam last week. This week in London he is at the centre of proceedings for UEFA Congress and the Champions League Final. Then he flies to Mauritius for next week’s congress of FIFA of which he is a vice-president.
In Mauritius Platini will confront the usual political minefield. Barely hidden beneath the sands will be speculation about his own ambitions amid accusations that UEFA has obstructed FIFA reforms.
Also under informal discussion will be Platini’s insistence that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar should be switched from the searing heat of summer to more temperate winter months.
Within the reform proposals being recommended to FIFA Congress by the executive committee is a reworking of the World Cup bid system.
This would remove selection of a host from the exco. In future this would ‘only’ – in an open ballot! – recommend three options from which the full congress should vote.
Here is the twist.
The proposed new selection system is described thus:
“The decision on the venue for the final competition of the FIFA World Cup aims to achieve the objective of securing the best possible hosting conditions in the host country.”
No reference here to “developing the game” or to “reaching out to new regions.”
This and other proposals are expected to attain the necessary three-quarters majority for a change in FIFA statutes. Platini will then be able to point to the new wording as vindication for his demand that Qatar’s World Cup be switched to the winter to secure “the best possible hosting conditions in the host country.”
Anything else and FIFA will be running contrary to its own new rules.
Further, setting a new standard for the World Cup host in this manner would hand FIFA the right to order a change of dates.
Of course the Qataris could object that the World Cup host contract has long been signed and sealed. But they have always answered date switch speculation by insisting they were happy to leave the decision up to FIFA.
Hence retrospective legislation would not be an issue for them.
The only problem would be the attitude of the losers in the 2018 and 2022 bidding process in that controversial exco vote in Zurich in December 2010. England, thinking 2018, and the United States, thinking 2022, might claim that both had offered “the best possible hosting conditions” right then and there.
This is an issue the next president of FIFA will have to confront after the election in 2015.
Sounds like one potentially explosive reason Sepp Blatter may consider that handing over to Platini is not such a bad idea after all.