Fifa Farce

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: May 31 2011, 09:03am hrs
With global glare on the apex footballing organisation, FIFA is writhing in agony. With financial power running into billions ($1.3bn alone for rights to the 2010 World Cup), and being the affiliate organisation for 208 of the worlds national football associations, the world is unsurprisingly adamant that corruption should not contaminate the beautiful game. Although knowledge of corruption has long been suspected, and the executive governors little trusted, the events of the last week culminating on Sunday have brought new ignominy. Presidential candidate and president of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed bin Hammam, has been suspended, alongside Jack Warner, president of the Confederation of American Football, both for alleged bribery, adding to two other executive committee members suspended in October. Now, this leaves president Sepp Blatterdubiously acquitted for corruption recentlyrunning unopposed for a fourth term. Turning into a Jabba-the-Hut type figure, and seen by many as representing all that is wrong in FIFA, his assurances of fixing the house are not being taken too seriously.

If FIFA is to maintain credibility and avoid tarnishing the greatest show on Earth (the World Cup), they must reform, just as the IOC reformed after the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics bribery scandal. An ideal short-term step, would be to postpone the presidential elections to allow another challenger to emerge, and also have a more thorough and independent investigation into Blatter. In the long term, instead of being a system where the president has all power, accountability and transparency must be instituted, particularly in the World Cup bidding process. Additionally, executive committee members must shift away from career politicians to former footballers, who not only know much more about their game, but are less likely to tarnish its reputation. Reforming FIFA is a Herculean task, but there are no two ways about it: the muck needs cleaning out.