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Editorial: Now that Blatter is back …

Published:Sunday | May 31, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Blatter ... re-elected for a fifth term last week.

We were not in favour of Sepp Blatter's re-election as president of FIFA, world football's governing body. For even if Mr Blatter may not have himself been corrupt, he allowed a culture of permissiveness that culminated with last week's dramatic arrests in Zurich of many of football's top executives and the indictment of others for bribes and kickbacks by United States law enforcement.

But we can't override the democratic will of the majority of the FIFA members who voted for Sepp Blatter. Nor do we support those who, like Mr Blatter's nemesis and European football union (UEFA) boss, Michel Platini, would pull the house down around the FIFA president with hints of a European boycott of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

What we propose is to insist that Mr Blatter keep the promise he made after his defeat of Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein in last Friday's election. He said: "I promise you at the end of my term I will give this FIFA to my successor in a very strong position - a robust FIFA." We would add that this FIFA must be clean and its operations transparent.

If Mr Blatter does achieve this, he might well rescue a legacy that, sleaze apart, has significant achievements.

As the recent indictments indicate, corruption in football in the Americas and, by extension, in FIFA, preceded Mr Blatter's ascendancy to the presidency, but worsened in the 17 years he has been at the top. And in a perverse way, it is the culture that he tolerated that helped to underpin the more positive elements of the Blatter presidency.


Football development


The fact is that Sepp Blatter was able to win on Friday, and has been able to stay at the top for so long, because he reversed the marginalisation of football in the developing world - in the Americas, Asia and Africa. First, he made FIFA into a major and profitable corporate enterprise and spread the money around - for the development of the game in the former outliers. Further, he opened more spaces in World Cup tournaments for teams from these regions and facilitated the entry of their officials in the

centre of global football power.

It is not surprising, therefore, that despite the circumstance of last week's vote, and the UEFA bloc in his corner, Prince Ali could neither carry his own region nor muster enough votes to win.

The upshot of these Blatter initiatives is that the likes of Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb, a native of small islands and as president of CONCACAF, a relatively poor football region, could share the FIFA platform with Mr Platini. The quid quo pro is that they controlled the votes that helped to keep Mr Blatter in office. And if the American indictment is right, they used their high office for corruption. If Mr Blatter did not know of their alleged corruption, he ought to have known.

We believe that those who are corrupt should be dealt with to the full extent of the law. We believe, too, that football stakeholders should demand transparency in the game at all levels, starting with their domestic organisations.

But we warn Mr Platini and UEFA that their reformist narrative will be counterproductive if it continues to suggest, as the cartographers of old did, that Europe was the centre of the world, with all else at the periphery.