In the world of smoke and mirrors, behind the spin and the secrecy, the lies and vested interests, the tangled webs of international diplomacy, or lack if it, the posturing, the blinkered views and denials, one thing is sure about the astonishing FIFA crisis and its large global ripples.
That it’s a situation caused by, managed by and mismanaged by…men.
Yes it’s a man’s game, football, and it was almost exclusively so when the deals were done that have undone FIFA.
As the crisis increasingly becomes less about football governance and more about geopolitical tensions and mistrust, I realise that this isn’t one of the first – but hopefully one of the last – international scandals that has featured ageing gentlemen feathering their own nests (do excuse my lack of the word allegedly, as that much is undoubtedly true, bribes or not).
During this news tsunami, sage observers, and by that I mean the likes of my baker and next door neighbour, not pompous journalists (I’m serious) have pointed out to me that football has simply proved to be the same as other businesses across the globe. It’s just that people are more interested in football’s ‘dodgy dealings’ than how other businesses strike deals. This is an issue for society, not just football.
And all the while, as we digest men being arrested, men hanging on and men who want to capitalise in the new FIFA, are we taking a step back and acknowledging two things about who could become president.
One, as the battle to replace Blatter begins – and the man himself could still play a significant part in the identity of his successor – the names of ‘football men’ are thrown around. Men who played it well and now want to hit the heights in the boardroom – from already successful Platini to irrelevant Ginola. Then there are those with a non-football (playing) background who have made an impact in football governance. Prince Ali for example.
But there is only occasional mention of those who could run from football from a completely clean slate. People untainted by football’s mistakes. Someone, forgive the slight exaggeration, to play a Kofi Annan figurehead role. The way the global battle lines are being drawn it might actually need such radical thinking to save FIFA.
Secondly, no less importantly, and relevant to point one, why are no women being mentioned in FIFA’s future? Perhaps I have got this wrong and a new diverse FIFA is about to born, but how many women have you heard mentioned as part of FIFA’s future?
On the day Blatter announced he was stepping down I spent a lot of airtime discussing the crisis and the future on my channel Al Jazeera. During one of many live ‘hits’ I raised whether the new President of FIFA would or should be a woman. But I knew full well it was a sidebar subject, something to be discussed more fully on another day. Well shouldn’t that day have arrived?
Every day is action-packed with FIFA speculation and manoeuvring and guess what? Still no talk of a female candidate. Currently, only Lydia Nsekera is a full FIFA executive committee member who is female. It’s claimed by FIFA itself that over 30 million women play the game.
Are you getting the irony of all this? The most successful, exciting women’s World Cup in history is taking pace and finally people are realising that this sport isn’t the men’s game after all. It belongs to us all. And that women in football don’t have to be constantly seen as playing catch up, in standards, in public-interest.
Most people are acknowledging football as an exciting sport in its own right. Most people. One lauded English newspaper writer managed to sneak through a column effectively saying ‘women’s football is garbage’ under the cloak of ‘don’t patronise it by pretending it’s brilliant’. He said the players “can’t string two passes together.” Coming from a ‘straight talkin’ male with an army of little followers it must be true. Right? Maybe he should watch a bit more of it.
Should the progress of women’s football be reflected by more women in the boardroom? Probably, but that’s not the main point I am making.
Football desperately needs to be run along intelligent, ethical, business-savvy lines.
Why wouldn’t the people who do that be largely female?
And why shouldn’t the new FIFA President be a woman?
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport