In that environment there’s no guarantee that FIFA’s next president, whoever it may be, will be any better than Blatter or his predecessors. If the culture of FIFA produces candidates like Blatter, Rous, or Havelange, then it’s not just enough to change the person at the top; the whole organization needs a revamp. Could the Qatar 2022 controversy be FIFA’s own ‘Salt Lake City moment?’
Apart from Blatter, who else could seriously challenge for the position of FIFA president? Michel Platini is the obvious candidate, but his vote for Qatar could prove to be a mark against his candidacy. Furthermore, is the former France captain too Euro-centric for his own good?
Jerome Champagne, the former Deputy General Secretary of FIFA, has stated he will stand for the top job. Champagne warned that another ‘coronation’ similar to last ‘election’ would be a disaster for FIFA and its credibility. He went on to say that a debate is required in soccer and of the governing body. He said “There is a need for new impetus, fresh air, new vision and some momentum. But at the same time keeping what has been done correctly for 40 years – the universalization of the game, the development program. We need a stronger FIFA.”
Whether FIFA as organization would be willing to accept a new vision is a different matter entirely.
Time for a change?
We can’t simply expect a change of president to foster a new golden age of FIFA. There needs to be more fundamental, institutional change within the organization. The need to embrace transparency is paramount. It cannot continue to be an organization based in Switzerland living in its own reality as the rest of the world moves on. As Champagne points out, there are a number of issues FIFA is not tackling and if it continues down the current path, soccer’s governing organization could see itself become an irrelevant, toothless body out of sync with the needs of the game and possibly ceding control to a powerful, more organized group.
So what can be done? There’s no simple solution but the first and most obvious thing the organization can do is open up. Whilst FIFA has done a lot of good work in developing the game in poorer nations, its perception has been sullied because of incompetence, corruption, a lust for money, and just being plain out of touch with the average soccer fan. It needs to bring in more of the game’s stakeholders, be they player unions, fans groups, or club organizations to name a few. There has to be a willingness and desire to reconfigure the power structure and make things more transparent and accountable.