Friday, 6 April 2012

F is for... FIFA

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, more commonly known as FIFA, was founded in 1904 to oversee the game of football across the world. FIFA's membership comprises 208 National Associations, with the governing body responsible for the organisation of the World Cup tournaments, as well as the laws of the game of football (alongside the four football associations of the United Kingdom).

Sepp Blatter

Sepp Blatter, somehow still in charge of FIFA
FIFA's current president, Sepp Blatter, has been in the position since 1998 and is the 8th President in the history of the organisation. He's a controversial figure, having attracted much criticism from the media, fans, players and senior football figures. Despite this he was re-elected to his position unopposed last year, and will remain in the role until at least 2015.

Here's a few of Blatter's indiscretions during his years in charge of FIFA:

  • Blatter suggested that female footballers should "wear tighter shorts and low cut shirts" to attract more male fans to their games
  • Blatter suggested that there was no racism in football, and that if any racist comments were made on-field then they could be corrected with a handshake
  • Blatter said that Latin America would applaud John Terry (England's former captain) for his extramarital affairs
  • Blatter said that homosexuals should "refrain from any sexual activity" during the 2022 World Cup in Qata

The 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids

In December 2010 the hosts for the World Cups in 2018 and 2022 were decided, with the process which first began in March 2009 coming to an end. It was known before the bidding that the 2018 World Cup would be held in Europe, with the 2022 World Cup being help outside of Europe & South America (due to those continents hosting the past two World Cups). 

The Qatari stadiums will have artificial clouds above them
In the lead up to the bidding process a British newspaper, The Sunday Times, carried out an exposé that discovered that two member's votes could be brought for $800,000, with these members subsequently suspended from their positions. The voting process threw up several surprises, with the British & Australian bids doing particularly badly; despite both countries supposedly being promised a number of votes they received only 3 between them. The biggest surprise was the choice of Qatar as the hosts for the 2022 tournament, with the event due to be played in the middle of summer when temperatures regularly exceed 40 degrees and never drop below 30 degrees.

The subsequent criticism of the bidding process was widespread, with many fans & commentators feeling the selection process was flawed and corruption within FIFA was widespread. Blatter unsurprisingly dismissed these claims, saving particular scorn for England who he claimed were "bad losers". In June 2011 The Sunday Times claimed they had information that two votes were brought by Qatar for $1.5 million, and a leaked email from the FIFA General Secretary, Jérôme Valcke, suggested that Qatar had "brought" the rights to host the event. Blatter denied these allegations, and was adamant that the original bidding result would stand.

FIFA and racism

Is FIFA doing enough to combat racism?
Football has been one of the most progressive sports in trying to tackle racism worldwide, with the Kick It Out campaign particularly prominent in the U.K. However despite being strong in its words against racism, FIFA & their European counterpart UEFA have been consistently weak with their actions against racist incidents. Here's some of the fines & bans FIFA & UEFA have handed over racist occurences in recent years:

  • In 2000 Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira accused Lazio's Sinisa Mihalovic of racially abusing him during a match betweent the two clubs in the Champions League. UEFA found the Serbian defender guilty, but only gave him a two-match ban.
  • In 2004 FIFA fined Spain £44,750 after two English players were subjected to monkey chants in a game between the two countries in Madrid
  • In 2008 FIFA fined Croatia just £15,000 after their fans subjected England striker, Emaile Heskey, to racist chants throughout a World Cup qualifier between the two countries
  • In September 2010 Bulgarian fans directed monkey chants at three English players during a Euro 2012 qualifier. Bulgaria were fined £34,000 by UEFA.

In a sport where average players can be brought and sold for millions of pounds, these paltry fines and bans do little to discourage racist actions and should bring shame on football's governing bodies. Instead we get comments from figureheads such as Blatter playing down racist incidents.

In summary

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness summed things up succinctly when he said that Blatter "has lost control" of FIFA and that "It's a scandal how things run there... one scandal comes on the heels of another." After years of mismanagement & scandal Blatter should have never been allowed to stand for President of FIFA again, let alone be re-elected for a 4th term.

When members of the IOC were found to have accepted bribes in relation to Salt Lake City being awarded the 2002 Winter Olympics, ten members of the IOC were expelled and another ten were suspended. In addition, new term and age limits were put into place for IOC membership. Interestingly, nothing strictly illegal occured, although it was felt that the acceptance of gifts was morally questionable.

Similarly even though nothing has been proved in relation to the 2018 & 2022 World Cup bidding process, I think that there's enough doubt over the whole situation to warrant a clean-out at FIFA. However I'm doubtful that anything will happen in the near future, with the people holding the power at FIFA seemingly unwilling to give up things without a fight. Hopefully someone is willing to take the fight to FIFA at some point, and we can have faith that football is run by a clean & trustworthy governing body in the future.

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