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Time For FIFA To Reform: Anger At Soccer’s Governing Body Reaching Tipping Point

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. 

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  1. Pakapala

    June 4, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    There’s only one way the report by Michael Garcia can be credible: That is if it reveals that yes there’s been bribery in awarding of the WC in 2022 and 2018 as well. That all the countries bidding were involved. Because that is the truth. This is why I laugh when I hear people talk about revote and keeping the same candidates. The lights are shining on Qatar because they won the bid but every single candidates were bribing to secure votes.

    • Flyvanescence

      June 4, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      Thank you. For anybody to take the moral high ground because their bribes werent as big as someone else’s is ludicrous.

      But taking the moral high ground is the thing these days. Everybody wants a claim to it if they dont get something their way

  2. Efrain

    June 4, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    What about the players boycotting. If all soccer players from all nations come together and refuse to play in World Cup friendlies, qualifiers, etc. I’m sure most of them do not want to play in Qatar. If one or two countries stand up and say “we will not participate in the World Cup” others are sure to follow. Easier said than done I know.

  3. yespage

    June 4, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Nations should only be awarded the World Cup if they can actually put one together without having to build much in the way of infrastructure.

    • goisles01

      June 4, 2014 at 9:59 pm

      That’s why the US will always be an optimum choice. We have brand new soccer specific parks already and all the big seating gridiron football stadiums would not be in use. Temperature would always be manageable. Infrastructures already in place to manage crowds.

  4. R.O

    June 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    In the end it’s all about “Money” Also each confederation has their own desire and wants.

    But Money is the driver. Money from sponsors, TV deals, and for FIFA and certain confederations (those in charge).

    Unless their is an independent oversight board/committee which isn’t political or influenced by bribes, i.e. money nothing will change. It’s the sample for the IOCC.

    I feel the best way is to only have a list of counties that will host WC and rotate through them.

    The list could look like this:

    Japan-South Korea
    Australia (maybe)

    and maybe a two country combo of:


    Other countries just can’t handle the financial burden and money needs to be better spent on internal things.

    Some people may wonder why I didn’t include China, maybe but pollution, traffic and other issues for me are a negative.

    • Adam

      June 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      There’s also the brutal, totalitarian communism. That’s a negative issue about China which is slightly worse than “traffic”.

      • R.O

        June 4, 2014 at 6:44 pm

        Well that’s why I added “other” because there are other issues with China. I didn’t want to go into that on this blog site.

  5. goisles01

    June 4, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    FIFA reminds me more and more of the Immobliare from Godfather III. Thing is when I buy a FIFA video game, am I supporting organized crime? 😉

  6. Martin J.

    June 4, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Bribery is so common when nations bid for the World Cup that, only if it involves something outrageous like a death threat or something similar, nothing is going to be done. The people who voted for the awarding of the World Cup venue and those who would be voting to sanction any alleged infractions are the same people. Therefore don’t expect anything to come out of this.

  7. Frill Artist

    June 4, 2014 at 10:50 am

    It’s not about TV partners. If people don’t watch, then that will be a good enough boycott. Yes, the stations might still air it but they’ll slowly realize no one is actually watching. However, I doubt enough people will decide not to watch.

  8. Don

    June 4, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Really, the only way they’ll “listen” is if their TV partners (or the countries dumb enough to pay to host the events) back out. It’s that simple. If ESPN/FOX, or whoever has the US rights, and the carriers for large European countries make an effort, they’ll listen. Up till then? Nothing. Business as usual.

    • Christopher Harris

      June 4, 2014 at 10:40 am

      True, but the minute that the major TV partners pull out, there’ll be other TV partners coming in to take the rights.

      The only way to cause a change is to get to the advertisers. But still the same problem exists. If the advertisers pull out, there’ll be others that would step in.

  9. Guy

    June 4, 2014 at 10:22 am

    You covered all the bases, but let me say that “FIFA” and “credibility” are already mutually exclusive terms. After all the dust settles and the hoo-haa dies down absolutely nothing will be done and nothing will change.

    Call my a cynic.

    • Guy

      June 4, 2014 at 10:24 am

      Oh, for an edit button. 😉

    • jtm371

      June 4, 2014 at 10:26 am

      Unfortunately you are spot on. 🙂

  10. jtm371

    June 4, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Boycott WC 22 seems harsh but at some point you have to fight fire with fire. Only way you get their attention is to get in their pockets.Lip service will not change anything.

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