Aftermath of Sepp Blatter’s (s)election
Sepp Blatter might have been re-elected as Fifa’s president for his fourth term but many question the prospect of whether his victory makes the world’s most powerful sports body any stronger.
Not only were the elections held under the shadow of fierce criticism and corruption allegations, but to be honest, Sepp Blatter won the presidency not because the member associations had faith in him, but because he was the sole candidate left to elect after Mohamed Bin Hammam withdrew from the two-man contest.
However, the allegations that surfaced during the elections have stained the integrity and unity of Fifa and it looks like an irreparable damage. The Fifa Executive Committee probed these allegations and their two confederation heads – Jack Warner of CONCACAF and Bin Hammam of AFC – are already suspended. Both were accused of arranging to pay delegates of the Caribbean Football Union $40,000 in cash to vote against Blatter.
The England FA had, therefore, called for the postponement of elections but in a house of 208 members, 172 voted against the call while 186 voted to re-elect the president, which led England Prime Minister David Cameron to declare the electoral process as a ‘farce’. The opposition came because England viewed Blatter’s re-election through the prism of their unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 World Cup.
In fact, it was a failure to lobby for support and England termed it a conspiracy citing irregularities in the bidding process. English FA chief Lord Triesman tabled allegations of bribery on the part of the two members of the Fifa Executive Committee, Warner and Nicolas Leoz, over the cash-for-vote concerning the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
However, the latest allegations related to the presidency elections created further difficulties for the sport’s global governing body. But Fifa immediately suspended both Warner and Bin Hammam, leading the Qatari who was instrumental in winning the hosting rights of Qatar 2022, to withdraw from the elections and eventually clearing the route for Blatter to get re-elected.
But Warner, in protest over his exclusion from footballing matters, released an email written to him by Jerome Valcke in which the Fifa general secretary wrote “[Bin Hammam] thought you can buy Fifa as they [Qatar] bought the World Cup.” Valcke confirmed that this email was genuine but he also clarified that he was referring to “financial muscles” and not bribery in his email.
The newly-elected president pledged in his recent election manifesto to “improve transparency” in the organisation, “review calls to introduce goal-line technology” and establish a new board to improve Fifa’s “credibility”. But amidst all these scams and allegations the question still remains: Is Blatter capable enough to restore the flagging credibility of Fifa?
The other significant challenge before Fifa is the public criticism it faces from its four leading sponsors – Coca Cola, Visa, Adidas and Emirates – who described the allegations as “distressing and bad” for the sport, Fifa and its partners.
It is premature to say when and how the credibility of Fifa will be restored but rest assured that with Blatter as the Fifa head, the billion-dollar-a-year football business continues to go on untroubled from the recent corruption scams. The suspension of four Fifa executives for alleged bribery can be tackled internally, while allegations that the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was rigged have already been brushed aside.
And as for the case against Warner and Bin Hammam – who deny any wrongdoing – the hearing will be held in July although it is unlikely that the findings of the investigations would ever be made public.
Published in The Express Tribune.
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