With their investigation into match-fixing allegations as well as a potential dispute with the IOC to resolve, FIFA’s executive committee had their work cut out ahead of the World Cup draw.
Interpol, the European policing network, is to create an international task force to fight the shadowy world of illegal betting in sport in general and in football in particular.
This development follows a string of meetings between world and European football authorities and various policing organisations after revelations of a major European match-scam stretching from German part-time football to Champions League qualifiers.
More than 200 matches, mostly in eastern Europe, are under investigation over suspicious betting patterns linked to alleged match-fixing; 17 people are under arrest.
FIFA’s executive discussed the crisis at an extraordinary meeting in Cape Town on the eve of the World Cup draw.
“We have received wonderful support in the fight to prevent football being hostage for illegal activities,” said president Sepp Blatter. “As a sports organisation we cannot act in a way that can bring these cases to court but now we have a partner which can do that in Interpol.
“This means all the present control systems – the FIFA early-warning for international matches, another for UEFA plus the German Radar system will be put together.”
Football has stepped back from the brink of a confrontation with the International Olympic Committee.
London 2012 will host football under precisely the same rules and regulations as Beijing in 2008 – that is, with a tournament restricted to players below the age of 23 but with three over-age players permitted.
In fact, only a handful of the 16 finalists in Beijing utilised the over-age allowance, one being Brazil with Ronaldinho and another being ultimate gold-medallists Argentinian with Javier Mascherano.
Blatter had talked in Beijing of scrapping the over-age exception but then both the European and South Americans wanted the tournament reduced to an under-21 level. This upset the IOC which feared a further loss of prestige of a sport which remains one of its biggest ticket-sellers.
Blatter sent the issue off to a study group which, basically, allowed FIFA to run down the clock on a change in the rules for London.
After an executive committee on Robben Island, Blatter said: “This was done for the sake of solidarity. At the World Cup we have the best 32 teams in the world but at the Olympic Games it’s different.
“Other teams have their chance [at the Games] and experience has shown us that twice in the past an African team were the winners. So, when this was discussed the others understood it was only fair to let some of the others also play in a big competition.”
FIFA also felt, significantly, that with the qualifying competition due to start early next year, it was too late now to change the system. Discussions will begin in February on what happens from the 2016 Olympics onwards.