Today should be a day of celebration for football fans. It will mark the end of Sepp Batter’s pathetic disastrous 18 years as FIFA President when his successor is elected. But it is highly likely it won’t be. While some people will doubtless say anyone would be an improvement on ghastly Blatter the five candidates to succeed him are not a distinguished lot (to put it mildly).
Three of them in my opinion would be disasters. One is Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa from Bahrain. He is the former head of Bahrain’s FA and a member of the country’s Royal Family. He has also repeatedly had to deny human rights abuses including torture of his own national team’s players. Even the suspicion of human rights abuses should disqualify a person from being a candidate but incredibly he is the favourite.
Gianni Infantimo from Switzerland is UEFA’S General Secretary. This nonentity is only standing because his boss Michel Plattini is banned from standing. Yet incredibly the English FA is supporting him for some reason that must remain a mystery. As a Swiss football administrator he would represent more of the same (Blatter is Swiss). Incredibly the other European standing Frenchman Jerone Champagne is even worse. This twit said in 2014 that “Football needs to free itself from the shackles of European law”. Garbage. Football should have to obey every law. Everybody else does. That quote on its own should have got him booted out of football for ever. Yet he is a FIFA Presidential candidate. Unbelievable!
That leaves the only two even vaguely credible candidates. Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan was the man who had the courage to challenge Blatter last year gaining 73 votes and denying Blatter a first ballot majority. Yet like Michael Heseltine who challenged Margaret Thatcher for the Conservative Party leadership in 1990 he is unlikely to get the ultimate prize. I suspect he got his votes last year simply because he was not Blatter. But a lot of the FIFA presidential electors are – unbelievably – still loyal to Blatter and would vote for him if they could (like Conservative MPs in 1990 who were loyal to Thatcher and hated Heseltine for challenging her). I doubt those who did not vote for Ali last year will vote for him today.
The one I would pick on the ” least worse” basis is South African Tokyo Sexwalle. At least he has some experience of real life – he was an anti apartheid campaigner in South Africa and spent thirteen years on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela – plus the fact that it would be a good idea for a black African to be FIFA President considering white men have made such a balls up of the job. Yet incredibly he is struggling to get votes from his own continent with rumours that the African FAs will vote en masse for Sheikh Salman. One feels knowing the history of FIFA there might be something dodgy going on…
But why is the field so mediocre? Simply because of a rule which is blatantly discriminatory. In order to be a candidate for FIFA President you must have two years involvement in football. But it is football people that got FIFA into this mess in the first place. And it is highly unlikely a football man (since most of the football establishment are men) would be able (or willing) to clean up FIFA. Remember it is the American FBI and the Swiss police that exposed the mess in FIFA in the first place.
The history of sport shows sport does not reform itself but when it is reformed it is done by outsiders. Baseball was cleaned up after the “Black Sox” scandal by judge – and the sport’s first commissioner – Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Cricket was revolutionised in the 1970s by an outsider – Kerry Packer. The revolution in UK football coverage brought by the Premier League was also done by outsiders – Rupert Murdoch of Sky and then Tottenham Hotspur chairman (more famous for being the hirer and firer in the UK version of “the Apprentice”) Alan Sugar. And coming up to date the current story about match fixing in tennis was broken by the BBC and Buzzfeed – more outsiders.
It does not matter who wins tomorrow. Sporting establishments do not change voluntarily. To quote former UK Prime Minister James Callaghan ” Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas “. Sure some cosmetic reforms to appease the hoi polloi might be promised but it will be as little as FIFA think they can get away with. FIFA like the EU is unreformable. The only solution is for the European and American FAs – whose companies bankroll FIFA – to break away set up a new FIFA and start again. But as they won’t have the courage to do it nothing will change in FIFA. Depressing, isn’t it?