You know things are bad in the FIFA house when even the normally vocal Sepp Blatter is keeping a ‘dignified’ silence.
In retrospect, it was probably too much to expect FIFA to get its act together and publish a full and thorough review of Michael Garcia’s report into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. In the end, FIFA outdid itself in its spectacularly huge farce.
We all know the story by now. Michael Garcia submitted his report on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process to German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert. Eckert then produced a 42-page summary listing his findings of Garcia’s report. The Russian and Qatari bids were cleared of any major wrongdoing whilst the English and Australian football associations were heavily criticized. Seemingly, the English FA (who cooperated with the investigation) was the most damningly judged whilst the Spanish/Portuguese bid was not mentioned as members from the latter group did not aid Garcia’s investigation at all.
There was an outcry over the judgment with terms like ‘whitewash’ being one of the more popular descriptions of Eckert’s summary. Even Garcia distanced himself from the summary stating that there were “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts”.
In fact, only the Netherlands/Belgium 2018 bid was completely cleared of any wrong doing.
Demands for Michael Garcia’s full report to be made public have grown since Eckert’s summary was released. Jeffrey Webb and Jim Boyce, who are part of FIFA’s executive committee, have called for Garcia’s report to be published as has FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne.
One of the more extreme suggestions has come from the President of the German Football League, Dr. Reinhard Rauball. He warned that if Garcia’s report is not released to the public, then UEFA could withdraw from FIFA. He told German website kicker.de:
“The result was a breakdown in communication, and it has shaken the foundations of FIFA in a way I’ve never experienced before. As a solution, two things must happen. Not only must the decision of the ethics committee be published, but Mr. Garcia’s bill of indictment too, so it becomes clear what the charges were and how they were judged. Additionally, the areas that were not evaluated (in the report) and whether that was justified (should be published). It must be made public. That is the only way FIFA can deal with the complete loss of credibility.”
He warned of the consequences if FIFA decided to dig in their heels:
“One option that would have to bear serious consideration is certainly that UEFA leaves FIFA.”
UEFA leaving FIFA would be the nuclear option but could be far more effective in forcing football’s world governing body to reform rather than just individual nations pulling out of the organization.
What if UEFA did leave FIFA? What would some of the potential ramifications be?
Here are 6 possible consequences:
1. FIFA’s role is diminished
With no UEFA within its ranks, FIFA will lose a huge amount of authority and credibility. Jerome Champagne voiced his concerns of FIFA becoming a diminished organization if it does not reform its structures and amend its practices.
Sponsors will, rightly so, reassess their relationship with FIFA and possibly avoid signing new contracts with the world governing body.
FIFA competitions such as the Club World Cup, the Confederations Cup and of course the World Cup without UEFA teams would not be as attractive to television companies, worldwide audiences and potential sponsors. The hit to FIFA’s pocket would be huge and that’s not to mention the possibility of the world’s governing body taking legal action to try and redress any perceived imbalance.
However if FIFA did become a lesser player, then the lack of finances could further lead to other confederations considering their membership within the organization.
2. UEFA to become the de facto world body?
What UEFA brings to the table is prestige and money. The winners of the last three World Cups have come from Europe. CONMEBOL do boast the super-teams Argentina and Brazil as well as other talented nations but don’t possess the financial clout of UEFA.
Glamor matches, friendly and competitive, between Europe’s and South America’s giants will most certainly be impacted. Teams could potentially be used as political pawns to settle scores.
The money generated by Europe could attract other continental bodies to work with UEFA at FIFA’s expense. If that’s the case then there could be a genuine possibility of reform and in an extreme scenario the possibility of a new world governing body being set up.
That said there’s no guarantee that a new body would be any better than FIFA or if UEFA is even willing to go down that route.
There has to be a willingness to do away with the structures at place in FIFA but that’s easier said than done. Additionally, if UEFA did decide to form their own global governing body would this new world order make football more euro-centric?
3. A change to Russia’s status in world soccer
The next World Cup will be held in Russia but if UEFA withdrew from FIFA that would leave the Russians in a difficult situation. Russia may have to quit UEFA if they still wish to host the World Cup. If that’s the case then given their geographical location, Russia would have to apply to become part of the Asian Football Confederation. The move may benefit nations playing within the AFC region, financially and otherwise, but what would the Russians get out of the arrangement? Swapping the European Championships and on the club level the UEFA Champions League for the AFC Asian Cup and the AFC Champions League is not in the best interests of Russian football.
4. Changes to the laws of the game
Ordinarily, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) determines any potential changes or additions to the laws of football. FIFA, though separate from IFAB, holds a position on their board complete with 50% of the voting powers. The boards from the United Kingdom make up the other 50%. If UEFA withdraws from FIFA, how would that affect the administration and the creation of new football laws?
Would UEFA go their own way and form their own body dedicated to the creation of new laws? If UEFA did withdraw from FIFA, would that oblige the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish boards to pull out from IFAB?
It’s unlikely to lead to two separate codes of association football (a la rugby union and rugby league) but nations within UEFA would be bound to playing by their governing body’s rules whilst the rest of the world could adopt a different standard.
5. Players in limbo
European players may not feature in FIFA World Cups but they would still be on their home continent and entitled to play in the European Championships and the UEFA Champions league.
For players born outside of the UEFA zone or not holding European passports, things may be a little more difficult.
Would players who move to Europe be banned from taking part in FIFA sanctioned events? Would clubs within UEFA’s remit release their best non-European players if they’re not obliged to? Just think of a World Cup without the likes of Neymar, Lionel Messi or James Rodriguez. A World Cup without Europe’s powerhouses is bad enough; if the tournament lost its other star players then it would be rendered meaningless.
Given the money awash in the biggest leagues in Europe players may choose their clubs over country. It may not mean the death of the international game but it would certainly be marginalized.
6. A sequel to United Passions!
United Passions 2: The Dividening!
Anybody? No? Tim Roth will reprise his role as Sepp Blatter…maybe.
Ok maybe not.
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