We would have liked to have concentrated solely on events on the pitch this month. After all, we witnessed a brilliant, era-defining performance by Barcelona in the Champions League Final; Porto continued their remarkable progress under Andre Villas-Boas by winning the Europa League; league titles across Europe were settled in dramatic fashion; and we have the Copa America to look forward to.
Yet, for all the beautiful football, there was also the ugliness of the FIFA meltdown as the world governing body’s leadership imploded under the weight of serious bribery allegations.
It’s not hyperbole to say that this was the greatest crisis in the organisation’s history. We have reported on allegations of corruption before, but they had previously come from outside the organisation. The allegations facing Jack Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam – that they offered bribes to members of the Caribbean Football Union to support Bin Hammam’s presidential election campaign – surfaced from a fellow ExCo member, Chuck Blazer.
FIFA found itself in an altogether new situation, with ExCo members turning on each other. Amazing revelations followed and the genie was out of the bottle.
This issue of World Soccer went to press in the immediate hours after the FIFA Congress in Zurich, where we witnessed a ruthless performance by Sepp Blatter, the great survivor of FIFA politics.
There will have been further revelations by the time you read this, and we will continue to report them over the coming months.
Attention now turns to the possibility of reform at FIFA, as Blatter moves to consolidate his power base once again. The fault line over the coming months will be between internal and external reform. Blatter will be determined to keep all reform measures within his “family” but the need for external reform is greater than ever.
FIFA remains an organisation out of step with the modern world, unable and unwilling to modernise. Blatter promised a special FIFA congress to discuss reform. Any agenda must include:
- A fixed term presidency, rotated around the confederations.
- An investigation by an external body into the 2022 World Cup bidding process.
- Full publication of FIFA ExCo salaries and expenses.
- Streaming of all FIFA meetings on the FIFA website and publication of previously secret voting records.
- The establishment of an independent watchdog to “police” all FIFA activities.
- Publication by federations of audited accounts detailing how they spent money from FIFA’s GOAL project and the FIFA Financial Assistance Programme.
One of the most astonishing aspects of the FIFA Congress in Zurich was the attack by Angel Maria Villar of Spain and Argentina’s Julio Grondona on the English media for reporting the latest allegations about bribery and corruption at FIFA. Putting aside the small matter of the latest allegations being triggered by a FIFA ExCo member (Blazer) the attacks were totally without foundation.
The reports had nothing to do with English angst at losing the 2018 World Cup bid, and everything to do with a desire to see transparency within FIFA.
The English media played a pivotal role in reporting the FIFA crisis and as long as ExCo members continue to fill their boots at FIFA – sharing $32million between themselves and the “directors” last year – we will continue to report on their financial affairs.
By Gavin Hamilton