Thursday, 23 June 2011


No doubt about it, Sepp Blatter courts controversy and derision in equal measure from time to time. The current FIFA president resembles more the avuncular figure no-one wants at their Christmas lunch rather than the President of one of the world’s leading sports organisations. He was re-elected for a further four years in May 2007 – whilst only securing 66 out of a possible 207 FIFA nominations. His tenure and candidacy in 2002 was immersed in rumours of financial irregularities and backroom dealings, resulting in direct accusations of bribery, by a third party, made in the British press by Farra Ado, vice-president of the Confederation of African Football and President of the Somali Football Federation, who claimed to have been offered $100,000 to vote for Blatter in 1998.

Blatter incurred criticism from female footballers in 2004 when he suggested that women should "wear tighter shorts and low cut shirts... to create a more female aesthetic" and attract more male fans.
Further controversy followed in the British press when Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup tournament with England receiving just two of their 'promised' votes - this controversy was dismissed by Blatter claiming that the English showed themselves to be "bad losers". The awarding of the 2022 games to Qatar was also contentious; the illegality of homosexuality in the nation caused Blatter to joke that "I would say they [gay fans] should refrain from any sexual activities", which brought condemnation from retired gay basketball star John Amaechi and gay rights groups.

The successful Russian bid was controversial due to the high levels of racism in the country, whilst the awarding of hosting to Qatar was similarly contentious due to the excessive heat and ability of the small 1.7m strong Islamic nation to cope with the influx of around 400,000 fans - and the alcohol those fans are expected to bring with them.

Earlier this year the FIFA president launched an astonishing attack on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), saying they manage finances "like a housewife". He has a sledgehammer way about him that even the Duke of Edinburgh would be proud of!

After the IOC said they would investigate allegations of corruption by FIFA members, Blatter said: "Our accounts are open to everyone. The IOC does it like a housewife. She receives some money and she spends some money". His comments appalled many still angered at alleged corruption against FIFA members, not to mention that shock decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup.

IOC budgeting is transparent and seemingly remains corruption-free - this is in stark contrast with the murky world of FIFA hustings, where a small number of delegates vote in secrecy amid shady lobbying by competing bid teams.

What are Blatter's salary, expenses and reimbursements per annum? No-one knows!  

And today, further controversy enshrouds FIFA's higher echelons. A FIFA report seen by the Press Association says there is 'overwhelming evidence' that Mohamed bin Hammam used bribery in his recent aborted presidential campaign against Blatter. Makes Blatter's earlier comments about a corruption-free membership a little irresponsible and may possibly come back to haunt him.

The ethics committee also stated that former FIFA vice-President Jack Warner was "an accessory to corruption". Warner resigned from his role two days ago and quit all football activities. As a result, football's governing body dropped their investigations into Warner, adding that "the presumption of innocence is maintained". Nice try - pull the other one!

However, the full report of the ethics committee headed by Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb said there was "comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming" proof that bribes had been paid to officials to support Bin Hammam's campaign for the FIFA presidency, and that Warner had facilitated this.

Both 68-year-old Warner, from Trinidad and Tobago, and Qatar's Bin Hammam, 62, were provisionally suspended on 29 May in the run up to the FIFA presidency that saw Blatter elected unopposed for a further 4 years, following Bin Hammam's withdrawal from the process on the morning of the election. Both Bin Hammam and Warner deny the allegations. Qatar - just to remind you again - secured the bid to stage the World Cup in 2022.

The 17-page FIFA report was faxed to Warner on 14 June. Three days later, he informed FIFA he was quitting his role as vice-President of FIFA. The report obtained by the Press Association concludes that there was "compelling" evidence that Bin Hammam and Warner arranged a special meeting of the 25 members of the Caribbean Football Union [CFU] on 10 and 11 May in Trinidad and that, with their knowledge, cash gifts were handed over.
Statements from witnesses, contained in the report, said they were handed brown envelopes each containing $40,000. One of the witnesses, Fred Lunn from the Bahamas, photographed the cash before returning it.

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe who is campaigning for a reform of FIFA, believes the case against Warner should be re-opened. "This makes FIFA's claim that Warner can be presumed innocent absolutely incredible," he said. "I believe Jack Warner should be made to answer these charges - it's not enough just for him to resign". This shows it was a big error of judgement by Sepp Blatter to call off the inquiry and cover this up".

Bungs, brown envelopes and shady goings-on. Surely these recent developments must put into doubt the integrity of FIFA and the way it conducts its business - including - I would suggest - the process in awarding successful bids to competing nations who wish to stage the most presigious football tournament in the world.

The enquiries into the allegations concerning the conduct of Bin Hammam and Warner should be extended to the recent World Cup bidding process that still continues to rankle with some. England's bid to host the 2018 tournament ended in humiliation, going out in the first round. Damian Collins has said any England bid to host the World Cup was "likely to fail" unless FIFA was reformed, claiming it had "a world of double-dealing and self-interest under Sepp Blatter" such is the unease that the English FA views FIFA and newly re-elected president Blatter. Blatter has indicated he will step down in 2015 and not seek a further term as President. Be interesting to see if he lasts the course!

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1 comment:

  1. FIFA's ethics committee will meet on July 22 and 23 to hear the case against Mohamed bin Hammam.


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