It is time for arrogant FIFA to face up to the real world

As you know the World Cup starts in Brazil on Thursday. But unless you’ve ben holidaying on the moon these past two weeks you’ll know that FIFA is facing serious corruption allegations about the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. But this is just part of a major problem FIFA – and football – faces. It is out of touch with the real world. it lives in a fantasy world where racism sexism and homophobia don’t exist and for that matter neither do laws that the rest of the world have to obey. A few quotes will back me up.
“Blatter’s arrogance typifies a game that has grown too big for its boots”( Paul Gardner, World Soccer, August 2013, page 15)
“I had come out as hating the World Cup because it’s a completely corrupt boondoggle” (Jennifer Doyle, the Sport Spectacle “On the Sexism of Football Scholars and Sports Critics, May 2014)
“FIFA is an Orwellian global super state” (Paul Hayward, Daily Telegraph, June 10 2014)
“They should refrain from sexual activities” (Sepp Blatter, December 2010, talking about gay people after anti gay Qatar won the 2022 World Cup)
“They could for example wear tighter shorts” (Blatter, January 2004, talking about female footballers)
“”Football needs to free itself from the shackles of European law” (Jerome Champagne, would be FIFA president)
I could go on but you’ve got the point. This is an organisation – and a sport – that lives in its own fantasy world. No wonder Richard Scudamore said the things he did in that infamous e-mail – and got away with it. And Blatter is at it again. After two weeks of corruption allegations about the 2022 World Cup what is his response? Here it is:
“Sadly there is a great deal of discrimination and racism and that hurts me”. That’s a bit rich coming from a guy who has made sexist and homophobic remarks.
So what needs to be done? Quite simply FIFA and football need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the real world. FIFA’s sponsors and the big countries in the world need to say “move them or lose us”. They don’t have to wait for corruption allegations to move the 2018 World Cup from Putin’s Russia or 2022 from Qatar. Both countries have anti gay policies. If FIFA believes in equality (and believe it or not they claim to do) that is all the excuse they need.Sport was a prime factor in ending apartheid in South Africa since the rest of the world boycotted the country. By boycotting homophobic countries like Russia ad Qatar football can set an example. If the sponsors and the big FAs asked FIFA to do this FIFA would have no choice but to comply. If they lost their sponsors and most important members FIFA would lose money. And the one thing FIFA fears is losing money. Hit their weak spot and they will give in.
But more than that is needed. Every law in a country has to apply to football too. One example. In the UK sex discrimination law does not apply in football. That has been the case since 1975 on the pretext that the average woman is at a strength disadvantage to the average man. Now this might have made sense in the political and sporting context of 1975. The UK government at the time had a majority of just 3 seats so probably the Sex Discrimination Bill would have been amended to include this clause anyway. And women’s football had only been unbanned in the UK 1971. But this is 2014 not 1975. The clause is out of date. And even if it isn’t it sets a terrible example. If an industry can get out of one law it doesn’t like it tries to get out of other laws. for example FIFA hates the EU’s freedom of movement laws that mean european workers – including footballers – can play anywhere in europe that they want. this law has applied to football since 1995. Incredibly UEFA and FIFA still don’t accept it and want to be exempt. How arrogant.They must be told. Football is part of society. It must live by the rules of society.
FIFA itself needs reform. The FIFA president must be restricted to two four year terms. Blatter has been there since 1998 and wants to be there till 2019. Too long. The longer someone stays in office the more power they gain. And power corrupts. Also they should be forced to reitre at 70. Blatter is 76 and if he lasts to 2019 he will be 81. How can someone that age be in touch with the modern world?
And finally the World Cup bidding process. . Why do we need a World Cup bidding process at all? We all know in the real world few countries can host the World Cup. I’d say England, France Italy Spain Germany Brazil Argentina the US Mexico Japan South Korea Australia China and South Africa are the only ones. Why not rotate the World Cup between them? Each country would know when it is its turn to host it and would not have to go through an expensive bidding process It could work like this. the 2006 World Cup was in Germany. it then went to south Africa and this year’s is in Brazil. In 2018 it would go to England (the european country among the five above that hasn’t hosted it) then in 2022 it could go to Australia (which has never hosted it) then in 2026 it could go to Argentina (which hasn’t hosted it since 1978) then in 2030 it could go to Spain (last hosts in 1982) and so on.
I can understand the likes of Jennifer Doyle when they say they hate the World Cup. But the World Cup is not the problem. FIFA is. To quote Hugh Gaitskell the former leader of the UK Labour party “we must fight, fight and fight again” to save the sport we love. We must aim for a world where football is in touch with society. We must aim for a world where the only qualification to play for a club is talent – not nationality race or gender. We must aim for a world where FIFA is not corrupt. It might never happen. but we have to aim for it.
PS – despite all FIFA’s faults I’ll still be watching the World Cup. For what it is worth my tip to win is Brazil.

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