Sat | Oct 21, 2017

Blatter era did a world of good for World Cup

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 12:00 AMGarnett Roper, Contributor
FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during a news conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, last Tuesday.
Lydia Nsekera, chairwoman of the Committee for Women's Football and the FIFA Women's World Cup, speaks during the opening press conference for the competition last Thursday in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Women's World Cup is being held in six Canadian cities, including Vancouver, from June 6 to July 5.
Garnett Roper
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I write in response to your editorial titled 'The post-Blatter paradigm' (June 3, 2015) which referred, inter alia, to the resignation of Sepp Blatter as FIFA president, having been elected for the fifth time to that post a mere four days before.

I wish to pay tribute to the impact that the presidency of Sepp Blatter has had on the development of world football.

First, during his incumbency, the financial fortunes of FIFA and world football have grown exponentially. When Blatter took up the presidency, FIFA, as indicated in its most recent financial statements, had reserves of US$300 million. Today, FIFA has reserves of US$2 billion. This leads to the second point.

There has been substantial and sustained development of football in the nations of the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. This is because the FIFA financial reserves have been capped at US$2 billion. Any surplus that is amassed is distributed in equal amounts to FIFA member nations all over the world. This means that Germany, one of the giants of Europe/UEFA, the regional bloc that believes that it owns world football, get the same amount of money for development from FIFA as, say, Haiti or Jamaica or Cameroon.

 

LAYING THE FOUNDATION

 

This has meant that national football in the far-flung places such as CONCACAF have received enormous inflows from FIFA. It is a different question as to whether local football associations have used these resources well or have squandered them profligately on foreign travel and expensive hotels.

Up to now, in the World Cup of football that is held every four years, the same nations have dominated. Few of the lesser lights have broken into the second round and beyond. But one gets the feeling that we are one World Cup away from that changing.

The Sepp Blatter era has done a lot to lay the foundation for football to be a truly world sport in which any country can be the World Cup champions. The other ways in which football has begun to change for the better is in terms of women's football, which has become a substantial addition and will come into its own in short order. FIFA has four women who are part of the executive. Lydia Nsekera, the president of the Football Association of Burundi, was the first elected woman member of the FIFA executive, and Moya Dodd and Sonia Bien-Aime were co-opted.

 

REACHING OUT

 

In the speeches made to celebrate Blatter's contribution at the recent congress in Zurich, a female official from Sierra Leone paid tribute to him as the first world leader and FIFA, the first international organisation, to provide tangible help to Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone. The FIFA assistance was given before the World Health Organization was alive to the crisis in Sierra Leone. The Iranian Football Federation is also headed by a woman who paid tribute to Blatter for the development of football in that country.

I am yet to be convinced that the charges being brought by the United States government against CONCACAF have a foundation in fact. When I read newspaper accounts of the US$10m paid by South Africa through FIFA to CONCACAF, I find it unconvincing. It reads rather like "destroy this temple and in three days ..." in the trial of Jesus.

What is clear is that both sides of North Atlantic Europe are disquieted by the fact that none of the previous two or the next two World Cups will be on North Atlantic soil. Though the 2018 tournament is being held in Russia, it's not the same - especially with the politics of Western resistance to the Kremlin on Ukraine and other matters - and to add insult to injury, the USA was beaten by Qatar for 2022.

There is something very transparent about the media lynching of Warner and Webb and the dethronement of Sepp Blatter. In fact, I think we understand that whatever the pretext, big money needs to be protected. If there were bribes, who else paid these bribes? It is wrong to take a bribe, but it is just as wrong to pay these bribes.

Maybe this has little to do with bribes and much more to do power and control. As it says in the Bible, the hand is the hand of Esau but the voice is the voice of Jacob.

 

WHITHER THECCJ?

 

PS: I note that Frank Phipps, QC, has come to the defence of the Jamaica Labour Party against my suggestion that the party is overcome by intellectual rigor mortis. It is ironic that the eminent jurist is demanding of me and of The Gleaner in its editorial that we make robust arguments to justify the CCJ. I say this is ironic because it is the very thing that the JLP has failed to do. The JLP has made no argument, it has divided on every clause in the proposed legislation.

In case Phipps has not noticed, 'referendum' (what apparently the JLP requires) is not an argument; it is a mindless demand.

In its tenth year of existence, the best argument for the CCJ is the CCJ itself. It has operated at the highest level. In case anyone doubted the quality of the jurisprudence and acumen in the Caribbean, there is the Shanique Myrie ruling. There is an abundance of talent. Sir David Simmons (a mere Caribbean national that may someday be part of the CCJ if we are fortunate) has not yet made his recommendations and his findings in West Kingston commission of enquiry, but his clear competence is already beyond doubt. I could say more about Patrick Robinson from the International Criminal Court in the Hague, but more anon.

It is not the CCJ for which arguments need to made; it is those who are contending that 53 years after gaining political Independence, Jamaica still requires judicial surveillance from London, that need to make their case.

- Garnett Roper is president of the Jamaica Theological Seminary. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garnettroper@hotmail.com.