FIFA’s engaging crisis yield further challenges
It is often said that nothing happens before its time. Following recent developments in sport at the global level it is clear that the foregoing is a fundamental truth.
The global sport movement has been struck by the revelations emanating from FIFA. While this is indeed extremely unfortunate news we must remember that not so very long ago the International Olympic Committee, under the stewardship of then president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, was similarly embroiled. That was the Salt Lake City scandal, which brought to the fore the shady dealings that allowed for the US city to win the bid to host the 1994 Winter Olympics.
Looking back we can say that Juan Antonio Samaranch was very fortunate. He survived the startling revelations and accusations enunciated in the book on the Lords of the Rings in sport.
Samaranch was a survivor. He had earlier survived the revelation of information regarding his role in the army of the brutish General Franco of Spain.
Samaranch’s good fortune was also enhanced by the fact that at the time the international media was only just beginning to be really invasive. Had he been around today and caught in the same circumstances he would probably have ended up like Blatter in respect of the unending pursuit of information on the part of the media, social and otherwise.
Embattled FIFA continues to make one blunder after another and sadden the world of sport in so many different ways.
The revelations that began with Warner and Bin Hammam and the $40,000US given to members of CONCACAF started a swell that will not subside for some time to come.
In the beginning it was simply astounding to hear the comments being made across the Caribbean. Many thought that there was nothing wrong with accepting the $40,000. It did not matter that the money was given without caveat.
Not many bothered themselves whether the monies were taken as a gift to the representative of the member federations present at the meeting or for the respective football federations.
What seemed to matter most was the fact that it was money that could be used.
The comment made to the delegate sat the meeting that if they were holier than thou or did not wish to have the money they should have been in church really signalled the harsh reality of the degradation to which the sport had sunk even in the Caribbean.
Not many delegates seemed bothered by what had transpired at the CONCACAF meeting in Trinidad. They must have known at the time that it was about garnering votes for Bin Hammam at the Pending FIFA elective Congress. Perhaps this was because in their respective countries they do the same. They bribe clubs to vote for them.
In a sense, many may have felt that they were engaging in a normative practice and saw nothing wrong with participating in the disgusting process.
Perhaps this has to do with the fact that for some time we have dismissed meritocracy as playing a role in determining who fits where in an organisation.
FIFA World Cups 2018 and 2022
The vote for the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 was another major catastrophe. The results came as a huge surprise.
It is not that Russia cannot host the World Cup. It is about the way things unfolded.
Many thought that if we based the bids on merit it would have been particularly difficult to not vote for England, the mecca of international football, a time tested location for the sport’s greatest prize.
If the vote for Russia was considered something of an anomaly the fact that Qatar was elected ahead of the others was simply unbelievable.
Qatar has plenty of money. There is no large populace. There is no abundance of venues.
The choice of Qatar compelled many across the world to raise numerous questions about the way things are done at FIFA.
Here again, it is not that as a member of the FIFA family Qatar is not eligible to seek the big prize. Too many things seem to have been in the mix.
It is not possible for us to accept that immediately following the award of the World Cup 2022 to Qatar consideration was being given to the time of the year when the event would be hosted. Was this not a consideration at the very beginning?
Did no one involved in making the decision consider the temperature of Qatar in the summer months, usually the period when the World Cup is being played?
How is it possible that after the decision to award Qatar the World Cup was made we had an international discourse on whether the event should be moved to the winter months and that European football authorities be asked to shift their regular seasons to facilitate the great concern that they have suddenly found for the health of the players in the heat?
That we can, given the state of the global economy, entertain the air conditioning of expansive football stadiums in Qatar is an abomination. Global poverty would probably suggest that we jog our consciences.
But in many quarters the reality is that organisations and people who should know better and otherwise expected to be more responsible have entertained the preposterous options.
We watched as the web gradually moved through the upper echelons of FIFA, one of the world’s most successful sports organisation. When the Swiss authorities swooped down on the FIFA executives at a meeting at the organisation’s headquarters it became clear that much more was wrong.
The revelations of the practices that seem to have been commonplace within FIFA speak to a most appalling situation. It was as though no one was guarding the guards.
In many respects Blatter has emerged as something of an international buffoon. He remains convinced of his own innocence. He seems to have few supporters in this regard. He nonetheless soldiers on.
Platini has now found himself also entrapped in the widening web at FIFA.
It is amazing that Platini waited nine years for the monies to receive payment to the tune of approximately $2m USD.
The claim is that Platini received the money in 2011 for work as an adviser to Blatter during the period, 1998 and 2002. It is also interesting that at the time, 1998 – 2002, Platini was in receipt of approximately $3000,000USD per year. Some suggest that for the period that he was globetrotting with Blatter he would have received around approximately $1.05m USD in total.
Both Platini and Blatter appear to be saying that it was a legitimate expense and that FIFA, one of the most financially resourceful organisations in the world was seemingly short on cash such that he could not be paid during the nine years. That certainly does not make much sense and it certainly did not impress the FIFA Ethics Committee that suspended both officials.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has also found itself in a rather challenging position. Heading to the last FIFA elective Congress our national federation announced its unwavering support for Blatter. This came at a time when things had already begun to unravel and when many in sport thought that the long-serving president would have read the signs and withdraw from the contest.
When the realities hit home and Blatter announced he would step down in February 2016 and hold a Congress to elect his replacement, the horse-trading once more began. The local Federation has come out in full support of Michel Platini as the candidate it would support for the FIFA presidency. No sooner had the announcement been made than the revelations began in respect of Platini himself, leading to his 90-day suspension in tandem with the penalty handed to Blatter.
One is not certain why, given the persistent probing into F IFA affairs currently being undertaken by the US, Swiss authorities and FIFA itself, and the amazing revelations emanating therefrom in relatively quick succession, would anyone, any organisation, dare to place its head on the block in support of any of the FIFA executive members of the past several years, to be the next president of the organisation.
Times are changing and the several investigations into the operations of FIFA itself would probably yield significantly more startling revelations that would necessarily impact the organisation.
Would it not be more prudent to wait until the investigation is completed before we make any further declaration in respect of who this country should support at the elective Congress?
If we fail to be part of the process of change we will certainly be shocked when the changes inevitably impact us.
We do need to be far more studious of what happens with the sport at all levels so that we can grasp the numerous ways in which we can impact how it operates for the benefit of its members globally.