After the FIFA scandal broke earlier this week, and the coordinated action of law enforcement agencies in the USA and Switzerland came clear in a series of arrests and extradition requests, the focus has been on one man, Sepp Blatter. He is the head man at FIFA. Yet he appears to be trying to carry on as before, even going ahead with what he no doubt hopes will be his re-election tomorrow. And it’s a pointless charade.
(c) Steve Bell 2015
While the Guardian has noted that “Nine senior officials at the organisation, as well as five sports media and promotions executives, were charged by US prosecutors on Wednesday over bribes totalling more than $150m (£100m) over 24 years. It followed the arrest of senior officials at a Zurich hotel and the announcement of a separate Swiss investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups”, Blatter remains in place.
Perhaps he expects the wider world to believe that the organisation he leads can have indulged in “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption, yet somehow he is not part of it. The Swiss authorities could summon him to help them with their enquiries as soon as next week. He must be away with the fairies if he thinks that he’s going to get away with this one. In any case, the decision may be made for him.
How so? “Fifa sponsors, including Adidas, Visa and Coca-Cola, are calling for the body to reform its practices. Visa issued a statement on Wednesday expressing its ‘disappointment and concern with Fifa’. It said that unless football’s world governing body rebuilds a corporate culture with ‘strong ethical practices’ at its heart, ‘we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship’”. That’s a threat to cut the money off.
If major sponsors ditch FIFA, and other footballing organisations like UEFA decide to shun it, there is very little point in it continuing its existence. And there is only one way in which it can signal to the outside world that it is going to rebuild that corporate culture with “strong ethical practices” at its heart - Blatter has to go. He appears to be getting the hint: this morning, he “dodged an appearance at a Fifa medical conference in Zürich”.
Typical of those representing national footballing organisations was Greg Dyke of the FA: “Blatter has put out a statement saying now is the time to start rebuilding the trust in FIFA. There is no way of rebuilding trust in FIFA while Sepp Blatter is still there. Sepp Blatter has to go. He either has to go through a resignation, or he has to be outvoted or we have to find a third way”. That means he has to quit today.
[UPDATE 2 June 1800 hours: Blatter brazened it out, submitted himself for re-election, was re-elected, and began to carry on as if nothing had happened. But then something did happen.
What did I tell you? This afternoon, at a hastily arranged FIFA press conference in Zürich, Blatter appeared before the representatives of the world's press - and yes, he resigned.
As Zelo Street told last week, Sepp Blatter was a Dead Man Walking. Now he is gone. Is there more to come on FIFA? You bet there is]