Since 1961, only three men have been in charge of soccer’s top governing body. That cannot be a good thing. It encourages inertia and an acceptance of the status quo – when genuine change is demanded, whether it’s on the pitch or for the governance of the game itself, there is absolutely no incentive to institute reform. A president has to be extremely unpopular with FIFA members, as in Rous’s case, for there to be a change in leadership.
In its current state, FIFA is living within a bubble with administrators ‘playing the game’ within that infrastructure. The lack of accountability allows members the chance to gain a lot from soccer without having to give too much in return. It’s quite telling that the most transparent ballot under the FIFA banner is for the Ballon D’or. You can find out which player national coaches and captains voted for with respect to the Ballon D’or, but we do not – and under current rules will not be able to – know who voted for which candidate in a Presidential election. With no term limits either, the system only aids those in power to consolidate their clout, therefore leading to the game being governed by a generation of administrators out of touch with the needs of modern soccer.
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.
Right now for all its commercial wealth, FIFA is experiencing a goodwill deficit, which will no doubt be seen at the World Cup if the planned protests go on ahead. It will be difficult to change the organization and those within FIFA may shudder at the prospect of change, but if soccer’s governing body does care about its credibility and wants to remain central to soccer, then its political body needs to reform.
If there happens to be a revote on the 2022 World Cup, then the momentum from that change shouldn’t be restricted to just picking a new host. FIFA members and soccer at large should use the energy to instigate meaningful reform.
Do I believe it’ll happen? Let’s just say I’m not holding my breath.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $35/mo. for Sling Blue
- Watch Premier League, World Cup & MLS
- Includes USA, NBC, FOX, FS1 + more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Germany 2022 World Cup Kits leaked
- Rivals jostle for Milan’s Serie A crown
- Brazil against replaying abandoned Argentina World Cup qualifier
- Real Madrid defeat Eintracht Frankfurt to win fifth UEFA Super Cup
- Silva says Man City know what he wants amid Barcelona links
- Zamalek president jailed for insulting rival
- Peacock TV wishlist of improvements to enhance streaming service
- ‘Very good’: Werner says Flick encouraged him to return to Leipzig
- Alexis Sanchez joins Marseille after leaving Inter
- CAF launches new Super League to boost clubs