Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Editorial: The post-Blatter paradigm

Published:Wednesday | June 3, 2015 | 6:00 AM

That Sepp Blatter's announcement of his attention to resign happened only four days after his re-election as president of FIFA implies that he is now privy to information that will make it increasingly difficult to extricate him from the deepening scandal in which the organisation is engulfed.

But the wily old fox of world football, having been forced to face reality, may have orchestrated a move that ensures his biggest critics, the Europeans, are not the major beneficiaries of his downfall.

If Mr Blatter had, as many demanded, stepped aside after last week's dramatic arrest in Zurich of six top FIFA officials and the American indictment of six others on corruption and kickback charges, the immediate beneficiary might have been Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, who would have been a shoo-in for the presidency. As it turned out, although he did not gain a two-thirds majority to automatically avoid a second-round vote, Mr Blatter still won by a landslide with 64 per cent of the votes.

The problem for Prince Ali would have been the perception that he is a proxy for Europe, almost all of whose 53 votes he was assured of in the election. In other words, he could not carry his own region of Asia and could only muster a handful of support from the Americas, Africa and Oceania. This is a factor to which the European football union, UEFA, and its president, Michel Platini, should pay attention as they articulate their vision for the future of FIFA and world football. Mr Platini's narrative too often suggests a football world in which Europe is at the centre and all else at the periphery.

We can make no claims about Mr Blatter's fiduciary integrity or personal motivations, but he, the evidence suggests, was, at best, a permissive leader, thereby creating an environment for others to be corrupt. It is in this circumstance that the Americans could make the corruption claims against the likes of Jack Warner, Jeffrey Webb and other football bosses and their associates in the Americas and for earlier allegations against officials in Africa.

But for all the sleaze that barnacled Mr Blatter's tenure, he not only turned around the financial fortunes of FIFA, but brought more countries to the centre of world football. It is unfortunate that some would suggest that this evolution was synonymous with the corruption and greed of which some of the new football power brokers have been accused and that their rhetoric would imply that the CONCACAF and African regions were undeserving of additional places at the World Cup. These significant achievements by Mr Blatter were, perversely, not only the foundation of his support but the platform from which his supporters could be corrupt.

FIFA, as Mr Blatter now concedes, is in need of a major overhaul to create a transparent and accountable organisation. We should, perhaps, be thankful to the Americans for forcing the issue.

But for all the wealth of the game in Europe and the presumption of its pristine leadership, Mr Platini and UEFA must be clear that there can be no wholesale return to the power structure of the past, with Europe at the centre and with anyone else in leadership presumed to be either proxies or honorary bosses.

The countries of Africa and Asia are legitimately part of the sport as anywhere else and ought not to have to pay bribes to host World Cups.