By James Dostoyevsky
July 27 – UEFA is finally moving to replace Michel Platini as its president. In mid-September, the European football’s governing body, which organises some of football’s financially most profitable competitions, will have to chose between three men from three different backgrounds.
But if there was any decency left in football’s world governing body, FIFA, then one man would not pass the integrity test. It is the very same man who continues to be a FIFA Council VP and UEFA’s Acting President, faute de mieux.
His name is Angel Maria Villar Llona and this publication has dedicated several reports to the man with a past that would normally have automatically eliminated him from the election process. But stand he does, and only some higher spirit can comprehend this move.
This article will not dwell on his Spanish past, Insideworldfootball has covered before
(see: http://www.insideworldfootball.com/2016/07/19/pain-spain-villar-llona-regime-comes-renewed-fire/ ), and we shall not qualify his abilities, which are what they are (and the cause of several law suits in his native Spain right now).
What does need highlighting is the hypocrisy of FIFA, run by a man whose sudden rise to power apparently seems to have catapulted him into some sort of football lala-land, one best described by a book called ‘Megalomania and I’.
So far, Villar Llona appears as much above the law (and FIFA’s own ethics regulations) as his close friend, new boss and supporter, the man who came in from the UEFA cold to run the FIFA animal that he fiercely fought for a decade before.
It is worth highlighting the facts and then see what FIFA make of them. Because even if it is a UEFA election, and even if UEFA is not a FIFA Member, it will be FIFA’s new governance team that assesses the integrity of all three candidates for a simple reason: as a UEFA President, the elected person will automatically become a FIFA Council Vice President.
FIFA, that so totally renovated apparatus of football governance (sic!), has set high standards: Article 1 (4) of Annexe 1 of the FGR pompously declares what a wide margin of appreciation the respective body has, when it engages in eligibility checks.
The paragraph reads as follows:
“In the context of carrying out eligibility checks, the relevant body in charge has a wide margin of appreciation in evaluating and weighing the information gathered with regard to specific individuals. Notwithstanding this, an eligibility check shall, in principle be deemed as no passed if the individual concerned is found to have committed misconduct that has a direct material connection to the position he holds or is a candidate for”.
This paragraph alone makes Villar-Llona’s candidacy a total no-go. Or, it would, if there was an ethics team that one can take seriously.
But it gets worse, much worse (or better):
In a very serious case (CAS 2011/A/2426 Adamu v. FIFA, para 129) a CAS panel held that high ranking FIFA officials must appear completely honest and beyond suspicion (and only one office is higher than that of a FIFA Council Vice President)
Well, well well… A man who continues to be a FIFA Council VP, who continues to be the Acting UEFA President and now has the courage to run for the Office of UEFA President and – by definition – for FIFA Council Vice President, and a man who, at the same time, finds himself embroiled in a number of directly football related law suits in Spain that have also directly to do with his office of President of the Spanish FA…surely such a man would under sane circumstances not want to expose himself to further scrutiny. But this one does.
But, to be fair: those cases in Spain are allegations, and all of them must be tested in court, and until such time, the accused is obviously not guilty.
But there is still problem – a big one for some, perhaps not considered so big for others.
Villar Llona has actually been found in breach of ethics regulations in the past. By FIFA. To be more exact: In November 2015 he was sanctioned for failing to cooperate with the official investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process. Villar Llona at first refused to cooperate with former FIFA Ethics chief investigator Michael Garcia and allegedly later tried to have him thrown off the case. FIFA’s Ethics Judge Hans-Joachim Eckert’s Adjudicatory Chamber issued this statement: Angel Maria Villar Llona “failed to behave in accordance with the general rules of conduct applicable to football officials in the context of the investigations conducted by the then chairman of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee regarding the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bids, thereby violating article 13 of the FCE. As he subsequently expressed his commitment to collaborate and demonstrated willingness to cooperate, he has been sanctioned with a warning and a fine of CHF 25,000.” (see http://www.insideworldfootball.com/2016/07/11/villar-llona-makes-move-election-not-manifesto-person/)
He was fined CHF 25,000.00 and sanctioned with a warning.
How does that tally with the CAS panel’s past ruling which said (about Adamu) that a man in such high office as is the FIFA Council Vice President and the UEFA President “must appear completely honest and beyond suspicion.”
And how does it tally with the CAS ruling which said: “(a FIFA ExCo Member like Villar) must under any circumstances appear as completely honest and beyond any suspicion. In the absence of such clean and transparent appearance by top football officials, there would be serious doubts in the mind of the football stakeholders and the public at large as to the rectitude and integrity of football organizations as a whole. This public distrust would rapidly extend to the general perception of the authenticity of the sporting results and would destroy the essence of sport.
And somehow I have the feeling that in Villar Llona’s case, the public will do exactly that: distrust FIFA further and extend its distrust rapidly to the general perception of the sport itself.
But there is yet another twist.
A few months ago, the newly re-elected Caribbean Football Union (CFU) President, Gordon Derrick, was prevented by FIFA from running for CONCACAF’s highest office, despite the fact that CONCACAF’s own ethics team delivered an integrity check judgment that would have allowed him to run.
It was Domenico Scala at the time, in close cooperation with the FIFA Ethics Committee, who ruled that Derrick was not qualified to run. Funny enough, FIFA then uttered similar reasons like the CAS panel, printed above. And funny enough, Derrick had committed a similar offence as Villar Llona in 2011 by not showing any willingness to speak with Garcia’s investigators. Derrick was fined CHF 300 (not Twenty Five Thousand…), did not receive a warning but a simple reprimand and was prevented by FIFA from running for high office in CONCACAF nonetheless.
Therefore, and if FIFA were to be consistent and if it applied the same rules to a white man as it does to a black man who hails from a minuscule football nation, unlike the Spaniard who proudly represents a former World Champion etc., then FIFA would have to ban Villar Llona from running for office.
And the wise-guys at FIFA who would now clamour and claim that Derrick is involved in an ongoing ethics investigation (which, because it is ongoing, must maintain his innocence until proven guilty!), should do some urgent reading and consider the five or so directly football related matters that Villar Llona faces in Spain, which not only involve civil law but in one or two cases also criminal law. Naturally, Villar Llona is also innocent until proven guilty.
What is the law for the pawn (the re-elected President of the CFU), must be the law for the bigwig (the Acting UEFA President and FIFA Council VP).
If that concept of equality under the law does not apply, I suggest FIFA close its rotten shop before it gets any worse.
Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1590940155labto1590940155ofdlr1590940155owedi1590940155sni@o1590940155fni1590940155