The sorry Liverpool saga about season ticket prices, increasing prices, fans walking out, then price rise rescinded, has once again raised the question of what is the place of fans in modern football.
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?”
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.
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,
In all the coverage of the crisis in FIFA what has been happening in the far flung corners of world football, like for instance Nepal and Laos, has been rather missed out. Now I do understand that you cannot expect the western media, in particular the British media where a story about Sepp Blatter or Michel Platini now nearly always makes the front page, to dwell on such remote corners of the globe. For the British in any case Nepal means Gurkha soldiers,
Sepp Blatter’s revelation that there was a deal in the FIFA executive, and in particular with Michel Platini, to vote for Russia for the 2018 World Cup and Qatar for 2022 has raised a hue and cry that the vote was a fix with Greg Dyke demanding the return of the £21 million England spent on the bid. The assumption is that the vote was bent and therefore the election invalid.
Michel Platini has always presented himself as unique. That he was a unique footballer cannot be doubted although the fact that he could not guide his country to a World Cup win means for all his great achievements as player he will always remain to an extent the nearly man, not quite in the class of Franz Beckenbauer. But it is his role as administrator in the last decade that raises questions about why and how he was ever considered a football administrator in any way different to the less than reputable bunch who have governed the world game for so long.
If there is one subject everyone agrees on is that FIFA needs to be more accountable and transparent. Yet even as there is unanimity on this subject in one area of football there is so little transparency and information is so tightly controlled that it makes those who run the politburo in China look liberal and media friendly. This is in the area of how clubs communicate to the world.
West Ham must have hoped that the dust had finally settled on their move next year to the Olympic Stadium. Not a bit of it. There are growing calls for public inquiry by fans of other football clubs into the decision by Boris Johnson to let the Hammers rent the stadium built by taxpayers’ money for the 2012 Olympics, an occasion of great British national celebration.
The contest to succeed Sepp Blatter could still produce surprises, not least we could have more candidates. Some Africans, aided by European advisers, are still trying to find a heavyweight African, Tokyo Sexwale is the name most often mentioned, to provide a realistic chance of the first black man occupying Blatter’s wonderful House of Football in Zurich. Prince Ali could still stand. But whatever the final list of candidates already the contour of the election is clear.
Any organisation in crisis prompts outlandish ideas on what should be done to reform it. But even then some of the ideas proposed to reform FIFA are so absurd as to make you wonder if those proposing them are really serious or just seeking sound bytes. That FIFA needs reform is a given. But to reform FIFA we need to understand what kind of an organisation it really is.
It is interesting that, despite all that has been written about FIFA, one issue has not been much discussed. This is how will politicians treat any future FIFA that emerges from its bribery crisis? We know how western politicians now regard FIFA. They have nothing but contempt. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has made this abundantly clear in the House of Commons.
We all know how the US Justice Department has moved the tectonic plates of FIFA. Yet the next few months, until the elective Congress meets to decide a new President, could also see major changes in FIFA and if Blatter gets his way these changes will not be very palatable to the Europeans and, in particular, the British. Indeed this could prove to be the most important period in FIFA’s history, even more important than the immediate post war years when a nearly bankrupt FIFA,
Talk of West Ham turning to Rafa Benitez in place of Sam Allardyce raises the question: what about British managers? If even a club like West Ham thinks foreign what hope is there for Britons who dream of managing the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal or Manchester City? And that this is a question being asked in a season where British managers have made quite a mark shows the problem for the native born.
Has there ever been a time when football has been so much in demand, even likely to affect a British general election, yet the people who run the sport are considered so incompetent, if not downright dishonest?