FA Chairman, David Bernstein declares victory on Wednesday at the FIFA Congress and goes home.
They say perception is everything and there has certainly been a dominant view over the last few days that the FA showed “leadership” in “standing up” to FIFA and in particular to President Sepp Blatter.
The FA had better hope that many of their newly found friends in the media stick with perception and don’t start to pick away at an incoherent and naïve strategy offered by the FA.
(In terms of the call to defer the vote Presidential vote, the Scottish Football Association failed to cover itself in glory either.)
Some folks with longer memories have pointed to 1998 and the support the FA offered to candidate Sepp Blatter in his battle with then UEFA President Lennart Johansson when both were running to succeed outgoing FIFA President Joao Havelange.
It seems unfair to hold the current FA accountable for a decision made some thirteen years ago but the reason for their choice back then – Blatter’s support for an England 2006 World Cup – does show that the same mistake being repeated.
Decisions are still being made without any consideration for the long-term implications and the FA – like many other domestic associations – are focused on the immediate.
Let’s take a look at a time line and the positions taken by the FA (or others formerly holding senior positions) over the last few months in relation to the FIFA election and the 2018 World Cup bid –
1. Fall 2010 – the FA lambaste the English media for allegation of corruption by FIFA Executive members in the World Cup Finals bidding process.
2. December 2010 – Russia awarded the right to host.
3. Post Award – the FA claims that bribes were in fact solicited during the 2018 bid process by FIFA Executive members
4. March 2011 – when given an opportunity to put forward a candidate for the position of FIFA President the FA choose not to.
5. May 2011 – with two candidates originally on the ballot the FA announce they will abstain.
6. June 2011 – the FA call for a postponement of the Presidential election on the grounds that only one candidate is on the ballot.
If you were the leader of a domestic football association (honest one of course) what would you think of the FA’s decisions and pronouncements?
Does it make sense or does it reek of a disorganized group that makes things up as they go along?
Or to look at it another way – is the FA an organization you can trust to make solid decisions?
If they had won the right to host in 2018 does anyone honestly believe that the FA would be saying tweet at the moment?
The FA might get high marks for their populist stand but they are an impediment to positive change rather than a catalyst.
The FA and SFA motion to defer the election handed the FIFA power brokers a very large stick and some very obvious targets during the lead up to the vote.
The FA and the English language media became punching bags for the likes of Argentine Julio Grondona.
Without the ridiculous motion being offered up the Congress might have heard greater calls for reform but instead the FA offered Grondona and his cronies a windmill or two to tilt at while running down the clock – if you can excuse the very mixed metaphors.
Reference to the “FIFA Family” generated many pithy comments from critics and media alike but the truth of the matter is that most of the FIFA members actually believe it and they act accordingly.
Just like any other family, if attacked they rally round and defend the family against a common enemy – in this case the English-language media and the FA.
If there is going to be FIFA reform it will come from inside the organization – it will not be “imposed” from outside the “family.” A look at the changes to the IOC over the last decade or so illustrates the point.
In order to make positive long-lasting positive change to FIFA you have to look beyond Sepp Blatter and the next four years and set the groundwork for electing the next President – one that sees an organization with a responsibility to operate with real transparency and honesty.
That is done by building trust and by building relationships but first it is done by building a platform. Only after enough countries coalesce around a reform platform will there be a chance to find the right leader.
FA could have been a powerful voice for real systemic change but as they have done in the past they have blown that chance.
Five suggested tenets for FIFA Reform
1. Term limits for the FIFA President and Executive Committee Members. If it good enough for the President of the United States etc etc.
2. Insist on same term limits for Federation Presidents
3. Transparent Bidding process for tournaments – open bidding books with all bid enhancements and additional offerings detailed.
4. Full FIFA Congress vote on World Cup Finals Bids (seems it is a fait accompli) but with votes weighted based on the marks awarded by the Technical Commission.
5. Full disclosure of all of FIFA’s financial dealing including all salaries and expenses of officers, employees and committee members.
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