It is refreshing to witness that Football appears to be finally be awakening from a slumber that has lasted almost four decades.
The BBC and Sky Sports have cleverly offered to host a live television debate amongst the candidates for Football’s top post the Presidency of FIFA. As they quite rightly state the current incumbent Sepp Blatter has frequently claimed that the rille is the equivalent to that of a head of state, so why not treat the run in for the Presidency in the same vein and have a televised debate, where all candidates get to air their views on key issues?
For too long Blatter and his acolytes have ruled with a complete air or arrogance and untouchability. Their lead has sadly been followed further down the pecking order by individual national Federations. On occasion FIFA has pulled them into line despite the hypocrisy of such actions, and on other occasions they have let sleeping dogs lie. On both occasions the game has been the one to suffer, along with those who support and participate outside of the professional game.
FIFA’s mission statement has been “For the Good of the Game.” Yet such a statement is ridiculous when one looks at the actions of the men in FIFA and insults the intelligence of those fans of the game. “The Football Family” is another annoying and equally condescending mission statement, especially when only the head of the family has a say.
News that there may in fact be a breakaway from FIFA is refreshing and long overdue. When you are unable to change something from the inside, that is if you can in fact get inside, then it is time for change.
The awarding of the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar may well be the tipping point for change. How can a country where racism is endemic, as is the case in Russia host such a global party? How can a tournament traditionally played at the same time of year be moved and hosted by a nation built on slave labour and where the stadia construction has resulted in hundreds of deaths?
To show just how much FIFA does not care about due process, Secretary General Jerome Valcke has effectively admitted that FIFA bought off the threat of legal action on the timing of the 2022 World Cup by awarding the USA television rights to the 2026 tournament to Fox and NBC- owned Telemundo without going through the usual tender process. Compensation to all of the European Football leagues that will be disrupted by the 2022 World Cup being run in the lead up to Christmas will no doubt be settled in a similar way, because money talks. Greed saw the World Cup awarded to Qatar and greed will see many Football Federations roll over and have FIFA tickle their tummies with wads of cash, when it comes to compensation for a December tournament. Although Mr Blatter has assured his member nations the tournament will not run past the 18th of December; the final day of the tournament no doubt, as this is also coincidentally the National Day of Qatar!
Should the European and South American nations boycott the 2022 World Cup? Many fans believe that they should. Whether they do will be a different matter altogether, although momentum for such a move is building.
Germany, Spain and Italy are believed to be strong supporters of a new world order, and they have the support of the home nations in the United Kingdom. Emerging power bases in Asia, Africa and South America are also said to be aligning themselves with these nations. The question is are all of these nations prepared to get their own houses in order, and crush the corruption within their own Federations?
This is a great opportunity for Football to act, the time has never been better. If Football fails to act it may well get left behind.
This may sound a strange statement for a game that dominates world sport in terms of participation and spectators, but other sports are changing the way they operate in order to survive.
Rugby Union is looking at a similar closed shop operation that sustains Baseball and American Football so well in the USA and sees both of these sports with strong and healthy bank balances. Cricket is going through a metamorphosis as its commitment to traditional Test Cricket is being eroded by commercial necessity driven by Indian administrators and ably supported by England and Australia. Even the Olympic Games market is being manipulated to try and pull in a younger average age of viewer, this is being done courtesy of new sports being introduced and traditional ones being thrown out.
Fans across the globe are no longer happy funding multi-millionaire players who behave abominably and fail to perform. With more and more internet viewing, and some via illegal streaming, football has to change. Just as the music industry has had to adapt, so too does football have to change.
Apart from crushing corruption football needs clear thinkers to be driving the game forward at this point in its history. If key nations do boycott the 2022 World Cup, there will be a great deal of shouting and posturing from those at FIFA unwilling to relinquish control, they will try and issue bans but guaranteed new similar competitions will spring up and will thrive, history has shown that. It just takes the courage of a few to stand up and be counted.
Maybe it is time that UEFA President Michel Platini did follow through on making the European Championships the biggest tournament in the world and just like the Copa America invite the top nations from South America and Africa to perform as guests at their tournament. (World Cup By Invite Only).
In football there are too many top dogs for whom the game is not their true passion. It is a job, a steeping stone to big money illegal or otherwise, as well as free tickets to plush events. Administering sport should be more than that, as the great Bill Shankly believed, it must be a passion. Then you can guarantee the person will go the extra yard for what is best for the game, and they will be happy to do so and put in that time. They will never want to harm their club or the game itself.
There is a line in Don Quixote that reads “Tragedy is to see life as it is, not as it should be.” This is how football is at the moment. Yet through times of difficulty come opportunity. The question is will those nations with the power to make change grasp that opportunity. Hopefully they will try, and when they do they would do well to remember the words of Martin Luther King, “Right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” Something Mr Blatter will hopefully be beginning to realise, along with many others in the game who are not there for the real ‘good of the game.’