Even the slickest, best choreographed media events – and I have attended few slicker than this week’s descent on Wembley by FIFA Presidential candidate Gianni Infantino and his footballing legends – have revealing moments.
When candidates of opposition political parties in US and British elections, and in many other countries for that matter, want to convince the voting public that they are best person for the job, they frequently go head-to-head on television as an important way of their getting their messages across. So what’s so precious about football?
‘Oh shut up, silly woman,’ said the reptile with a grin
‘You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.’
From The Snake by Al Wilson
My social media threads at the start of this week were full of the sarcastic indignation that is part of the medium’s stock-in-trade.
It is a country with a rich history, a history emblazoned with glory and noble victories, though at present the Italian national team performances are a little ‘see-saw’. The Italian Football Federation look at their trophies and their world position and are struggling to understand what’s going on.
Isha Johansen, President of the Sierra Leone Football Association, has a little game she plays with taxi drivers whenever she comes to London. The taxi is taking her to Oxford Street, Selfridges, and the taxi driver asks, “Going on another shopping spree are you? Going to shop till you drop?”
United States attorney general Loretta Lynch may change FIFA, but old school football politics is likely to prove an altogether tougher dragon to slay.
“Birds of a feather flock together.” Aesop
When Sepp Blatter gave an interview to the Tass news agency recently it made headlines everywhere. The Football Association chairman, Greg Dyke, even took what Blatter had said to the British parliament. The widespread outrage arose from Blatter’s claim that he had intended to stitch up the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding in favour of the US and Russian World Cups.
Sporting traditions are supposed to die hard but not, it seems, when it comes to the FA Cup, football’s oldest – and greatest – domestic knockout competition.
One thing that unites all the Presidential candidates is their promise that they can deliver a FIFA that will get away from the scandals of the last year and become an organisation fit for purpose. Yet reading their proposed reforms what is striking is how timid these proposals are. None of them go far enough. They will amount to cosmetic changes that will not produce the new FIFA we need.
By many yardsticks, 2015 must go down as a pretty rotten year for sport. The crises at FIFA and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have put doping and governance issues squarely at the top of the movement’s agenda, highlighting how it has struggled to cope with the full consequences of the financial windfall which the digital media era has delivered.
CONCACAF has had its three past presidents banned, indicted, charged or convicted.
When Sepp Blatter announced a new-look FIFA ethics committee back in March 2012, he did so to weed out corruption within his already tarnished organisation and make sure the cheats never prospered again. Little did he know at the time that he would end up being the committee’s biggest catch.
As if FIFA didn’t have enough problems at present, the recently-published television audience report for last year’s World Cup in Brazil gives rise to the question, ‘Has the governing body’s flagship tournament plateaued out as a global TV phenomenon?’
FIFA in its present form may or may not be destroyed, as the US Justice Department is clearly aiming to do, but for all the never ending stories of corruption that continue to emerge from the world of football one point needs to be stressed. This is that, however dreadful the governance of football, the FIFA scandal as far as sport is concerned does not match what has happened in athletics. There, as has been well reported,
“O what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!” Sir Walter Scott, Marmion
Sir Walter Scott’s Lord Marmion was a much dislikeable character. Having taken a nun for his mistress Marmion confected a tale of treason to have a man exiled so that he could make a play for his betrothed. Upon doing so he discarded the nun to her fate, which was to be bricked up alive in her convent cell for breaking her vows.