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.
You can take Thursday’s momentous events on both sides of the Atlantic one of two ways. Either you can argue that on the most eagerly anticipated day in its clean-up process, FIFA had its thunder stolen like never before and the rug humiliatingly yanked from under its feet. Or you can argue that the staggering scale and choking stench of corruption unveiled by US attorney general Loretta Lynch within hours of the game-changing reform measures being announced at FIFA headquarters only served to prove that world football’s governing body is at least looking to the future and acknowledges how desperately it needs a complete overhaul.
The bombshell revelation that Michel Platini – and presumably Sepp Blatter too – faces a possible lifetime ban over “that” payment has crystallised the seriousness of what may or may not have actually been agreed between the pair all those years ago.
Francois Carrard may well be a thoroughly decent man with thoroughly decent principles. But just when he had the opportunity to prove to an increasingly sceptical outside world that he was the right man to enact robust change at FIFA and herald a brand new dawn of transparency and credibility, he came up woefully and depressingly short.
So now we know who’s in and who’s out. A list that at one stage comprised only two candidates suddenly burgeoned to eight – or rather seven after the David Nakhid debacle – in the final hours before the deadline last Monday with the anticipated rush of last-minute applications.
The clock is ticking and the behind-the-scenes horsetrading is in full swing. But like a canny game of poker, nobody is revealing their hand until they are sure of their ground. With Monday night’s deadline for FIFA presidential candidates fast approaching, cards are being clasped tightly to chests in anticipation of who will emerge as challengers for Sepp Blatter’s crown.
As rumours swirled around Zurich on Wednesday that ethics investigators were about to throw the book at Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s headquarters was bathed in thin autumn sunshine and looked a paragon of normality. From the outside at least.
He tried every way he could, for months on end, to distance himself from the ignominy and disgrace that that has snared so many of his former colleagues.
It was never intended to end up like this. Jerome Valcke always expected to step down after eight years as FIFA’s number two once his boss, Sepp Blatter, announced he was calling it a day next February.
It was the word “entities” that got tongues wagging. What was the US attorney general referring to when she opened up a fresh can of worms by warning football to expect a another surge of corruption-related arrests, this time involving entities as well as individuals? Companies? Confederations?
The mad last-minute scramble is over and the dust is settling but the repercussions rumble on. Clubs being tapped up, chairmen squabbling over staged payments, frustrated coaches, disaffected players, disappointed fans. The summer transfer window may provide excitement and despair in equal measure but is it actually fair in producing a level playing field?
What’s good for the goose, as the old saying goes, is good for the gander. When former FIFA vice-president Chung Mong-joon entered the presidential race earlier this week by casting aspertions on both on his rival Michel Platini and the outgoing Sepp Blatter, he must have realised reaction to his comments would be swift.
Under pressure and backed into a corner? No problem, let’s take the weight off our shoulders by setting up a Task Force, pat ourselves on the back, send it away and hope for the best.
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. But if things don’t work out, I’ll willingly scratch someone else’s. Welcome to the world of shifting allegiances and alliances that have become the hallmark of footballing presidential elections.