Is it time for UEFA to take the Nuclear Option and split from FIFA?


Let’s cut to the chase with this FIFA nonsense. Department of Justice indictments here, Swiss federal investigations there, the corrupted or corruptible soccer leaders from around the world are still going to vote for Sepp Blatter as president.

British newspapers headlines can scream for Blatter to go – FIFA congress delegates will vote for him to stay.

The FBI can round-up the latest generation of bribe-takers in the Caribbean and the Americas – that region’s representatives will still back Blatter.

As Nascimento Lopes of the Guinea-Bissau federation told a gathering of African officials on Thursday: “It is a state conspiracy. People are always trying to knock Blatter. Africa will vote for Mr Blatter and I will follow that. It’s not all about the major European football countries.”

Spend some time around FIFA people and that sentiment about the European nations will never be far away. While officials from Africa, Asia and the Americas have faced serious corruption charges, somehow it is the threat of the Europeans that is seen as the biggest danger to FIFA.

The major football nations of Europe have tolerated the tawdry decline of FIFA for too long. Two Europeans, Luis Figo and Michael van Praag, tried in this sham of an election to give it one more chance, to see if a reasonable approach to reform and change would be listened to.

Both actually offered to increase the amount of ‘solidarity’ paid to the  developing football countries – both ended up pulling out of the election because they couldn’t get enough support to defeat Blatter and his system.

When it comes to FIFA congress – men who have never kicked a ball from countries that have never been close to qualifying for a World Cup – will decide the future of FIFA.

Countries that win World Cups, like Germany, Spain, Italy and France, help generate a huge amount of the revenue that ends up being spent in places like Guinea-Bissau and the Cayman Islands. But the German Federation, like the English FA, have the same single vote as the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Yet they are not powerless. Far from it. The UEFA nations, have football’s version of the big red button.

Everyone knows that there is a nuclear option and it is simply this.

Who wants to watch a World Cup without any of the top European nations?

UEFA could, if it chose, simply walk out of FIFA congress on Friday and into a nearby hotel where they could found an alternative governing body for the sport.

They could withdraw from the World Cup and announce they intend to hold their own international tournament, call it a World Championships – for now.

Then, with major television contracts secured from those like ESPN and others who have been snubbed by FIFA, the Europeans could invite a select number of attractive nations which such a tournament would need. Welcome on board Brazil, Argentina and the rest of the South American elite.

Of course, a World Cup isn’t just about Europe and South America. So, come on down United States and Mexico with your large television audiences. Japan, China and Korea. South Africa and Ghana and others.

Blatter and FIFA would still own the name of the FIFA World Cup. Qatar would still be preparing to play its winter tournament but perhaps they might struggle attracting viewers for Cayman Islands vs. Guinea-Bissau in Doha.

SEE MOREFIFA is all about cash for votes; Here’s how it could be ended

FIFA would be left with their tournaments, the name of the ‘FIFA World Cup’ but none of the major teams. It would be like hosting the Oscars with only B-List actors. Good luck flying round the world in private jets and staying in five-star presidential suites when the Turks and Caicos Islands are one of your most marketable assets.

Of course a new body, call it perhaps the International Football Union, would soon be getting requests for membership from the rump FIFA members. So how to avoid simply replicating the entire history of FIFA?

SEE MORE — 6 potential consequences of UEFA pulling out of FIFA.

Well, there is a simple mechanism used by other sporting bodies – full members and associate members. Founding members and other nations which have qualified for and appeared in a World Cup, would be considered full members. Those members would vet any future applications, making sure there is no hint of corruption. New rules on transparency, term limits, salaries and so on could be put in place. An independently managed global fund could be set up to support football projects in the developing world – ending the gravy train.

A president (if one were even needed) would not be allowed to serve more than a single term. And so on and so forth. The point being that a new organization would have the chance to set up a structure that was specifically designed to avoid corruption.

While many have hoped that FIFA’s top-tier sponsors would be the ones to force change, the reality is that there are no shortage of companies ready to fill the shoes of those who might leave.

The real ‘market pressure’ that FIFA would feel would be from direct competition – from a rival with the power to push it out of the market.

Maybe UEFA doesn’t have the stomach to take on such an enormous task.

But perhaps even the threat of that nuclear option might start the process of real change.

UPDATE: Michel Platini said today, “If Mr Blatter wins, Uefa will meet in Berlin to discuss the future of our relations with Fifa.

“We cannot continue like this with Fifa.”

Is the nuclear option near?

Editor’s note: Every Thursday, World Soccer Talk featured columnist Simon Evans shares his thoughts and opinions on world soccer topics. You can follow Simon on Twitter at @sgevans. Plus, read Simon’s other columns for World Soccer Talk.


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