Our readers might be surprised that we at the National Rust have been slow to enter the affray after the arrest of 8 senior FIFA officials. Generally speaking we feel unless we can add value by contributing something not considered or a contrarian view that our readers’ appetite is satisfied – if not in some cases saturated – by the media coverage.
However since the story broke and was extremely well covered by radio 5’s Richard Conway. I have picked over the bones and there are some tasty morsels here worthy of mention. I was surprised and unconvinced by the Blatter line that he cannot be expected to supervise every detail. We are not talking about expropriating the petty cash float but sums in excess of £100m, some paid from ISL, a company of FIFA now liquidated. A better line might be that these are charges and until there is due process and a verdict he does not wish to prejudice any defence by word or deed. Nor given the refusal to publish the whole of the Garcia report can we have any confidence that Blatter will fix it.
Then we have the sponsors. We are talking here of £680m sponsorships and no company would pay this unless satisfied that their global brand is enhanced. As Andrew Woodward of Visa pointed out this company came out with the most hard-hitting criticism and if Coca Cola pull out, then Pepsi might well step in and having invested such substantial sums, as they see it in football, they will not walk away.
Then there is the Swiss government. To the extent that FIFA is accountable to anyone except themselves it is to the court at Zug. I heard a Swiss deputy, before the arrests were made, explain the difficulties he encountered in trying to hold FIFA to account. They now have launched their own proceedings.
Finally there is the world football public. There is much to be said for making the game global and out of the hegemony of the clubs of Western Europe whose arrogance serves them but not football. Sadly this expansion was at a cost and price which ended up in the Excos bank accounts in tax havens. John Webb of CONCACAF is the banker of Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer. Most relevantly it has failed to produce a World Cup as memorable as 1970 with the glorious football played by Brazil. The 70s produced some stirring qualifiers too as when Poland dumped Engkand out of the competition. There was the inevitable angst over England but Poland with the “Count” Denya controlling midfield and two tubby wingers, Lato and Gadocha, were an extremely competent side that reached the semi finals in 1974 in West Germany. Nowadays qualification for the stronger footballing nations is a process as tedious as it is inevitable.
In the end it will be a showpiece final between an unforgiving US prosecution driven by an Attorney General anxious to make her political name against a rich sporting body. Blatter is unlikely to resign as he can use the resources to defend himself but FIFA grandees like African Issa Hayatou are 70 and likely to crack and sing in the face of intimidating process as Blazer has already done.