This is a Big Week for Sepp Blatter and world federation FIFA. By and large the media focus has shifted elsewhere since June 1 and followed up his contentious re-election with the promise of governance reforms and a root and branch clean-up.
Every now and again the issue reform has popped to the surface, most notably when the Ethics Committee has provided tangible, punitive reminders of the bleak state of affairs at the peak of the FIFA pyramid.
Those members of the renewed executive committee happy to respond to questions in the meantime – such as UEFA president Michel Platini and then Michel D’Hooghe and Prince Ali of Jordan in London only recently – have urged patience. Blatter, they have insisted, is working on his proposals and they will be revealed in due course.
This week is “due course.” Even more precisely, Thursday and Friday. Those two days are being devoted to the first full meeting of the exco since Zurich. Much of the Thursday will be taken up with issues surrounding the 2014 World Cup; these include the state of preparations and a live TV broadcast of the confirmation of the match schedule for both the finals and the warm-up Confederations Cup in 2013.
All that can be said at this stage is that FIFA will do its best to project an impression of confidence of the prospective resolution of squabbles over stadium and airport construction delays as well as legal wrangles of tickets, commercial piracy and alcohol sales.
In terms of Opening Matches the tip is that Brasilia will ‘land’ the Confederations Cup and the new Itaquera arena in Sao Paulo – which will not be ready in 2013 – will welcome the world a year later.
After that, it’s down to FIFA governance which should include: 1, new modus operandi to choose a World Cup host (after the 2018/2022 political fiasco); 2, a strengthening of the Ethics Committee and 3, a major restructuring of the FIFA command and control system.
Reasonable confidence exists over items (1) and (2) but (3) is something else entirely.
At the moment the exco comprises the president plus 23 members delegated by the six worldwide regional confederations. Certainly the confederations should be represented but so should leagues, so should clubs, so should referees, so should players, so should medical experts, so should the women’s game . . . among others.
Blatter knows all this. He told me that years ago. But how to persuade turkeys to vote for Christmas? How to persuade many of the long-serving, self-important power-brokers that they need to vote themselves out of their five-star luxury positions?
That is not all. There is another governance issue which Blatter may not even thought of addressing: how to reorganise the presidential role itself? A plethora of rumours and guesses which abound this week, up until the witching moment.
Blatter has been at the heart of FIFA since the mid-1970s. As general secretary and chief executive for nearly 20 years before he landed the top job it was only half-joked that he was first in the office to open the post and last to leave and turn out the lights at night.
This is how his presidency works; he even has a communications office all his own.
No future president should be allowed the time or executive breadth which Blatter has assumed down the years.
But . . . how committed is he to turning out the lights on the old FIFA?
By Keir Radnedge