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Three reasons why Sepp Blatter can still control FIFA

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Last week, just days after winning re-election to a fifth term, Sepp Blatter placed a call to the heads of every continental confederation (at least those not in jail) to inform them that he was resigning as head of soccer’s governing body.  An avalanche of negative press and communications from the major sponsors had put incredible pressure on Blatter to the point where he knew that, publicly at least, he was unable to continue as the visible head of the world’s game.  In the post-resignation articles, it is noted that Blatter is weary and begrudgingly admitting that FIFA needed to be reformed without him.

However, the reality is that Blatter now has the ability to quietly control FIFA almost as much, if not more, than he did as the public head of the organization.  Right now, that may not mean much with the organization under siege but it may have value in the future once the trouble starts to recede from public consciousness.  How is this possible despite the intense scrutiny?  Here are three reasons why Blatter can still control FIFA from within the shadows:

1. The re-election timeline is incredibly long

Based on FIFA rules and the timeline given, there will not publicly be a new leader of the international organization until December.  With Domenico Scala leading the reform investigation and some members of the executive committee in place, leadership is there but none of these personalities are strong enough and untarnished enough currently to be the “new face” of FIFA.  That person will probably come in the next election, but until then there may not be that strong personality to move the organization in a new direction.  When delegates behind the scenes want answers, Blatter – as long as he is out of jail – is available to discuss and control.

2. Blatter holds sway over a majority of the delegates

It cannot be understated that Blatter is incredibly popular outside of Europe, the U.S., and Canada.  Blatter brought soccer and money to third world countries ignored politically by the major powers, and made them relevant.  These delegates do not just support him, they are dedicated and thankful to him.  That is why despite the major arrests just days before the FIFA election, he still won reelection with 133 votes.  The criticism from the Western press doesn’t matter – he and his allies can portray that as the West once again suppressing the Third World.

3. Every nation has one vote

The Cook Islands (ranked 207 in the most recent FIFA rankings) has the same power in a presidential vote as the United States.  Chad (No. 172) has the same number of votes as No. 1 Germany.   Following on the previous point, a group of incredibly loyal and united federations in developing countries can band together and give a presidential contender a strong block to build from.  As long as the election process allows each country one vote in an election – and it may be impossible to change that in any reform – a unifying figure can help an ally be elected.

Based on these three factors, and assuming there are no major governance changes, Blatter still has the ability to swing an election towards an ally.  Here is the scenario how this could happen. Between now and December, Blatter quietly talks with his most powerful and closest allies to pick the person who would continue his vision for soccer.  Envision a Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin situation; Blatter could put up a public figure that would continue his policies.

Next, Blatter and his allies gather his old voting block together around this candidate.  They build a solid plurality of voters while simultaneously weakening any competitor.  In December, the vote is held and the Blatter ally wins.  During his term he continues the policies in place while Blatter either rehabs his image enough to make another run at a leadership position or continues to pull the strings from behind the shadows.

In an organization like FIFA, it will likely take more drastic governance changes to completely exorcise the corruption currently in place.  If Scala and co. don’t have the intestinal fortitude to make the tough choices (end one nation one vote, move up the election) Blatter may still be running FIFA in a year.

 

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. brn442

    June 9, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Well said Man U & Pakapala,

    The corruption at FIFA, especially in its World Cup allocation has nothing to do with one federation one vote.

    It has more to do with a culture of graft & bribery, lack of transparency, and no term limits.

  2. Pakapala

    June 9, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Why do people keep bringing up point #3 as a bad thing? What alternative do we think would be fairer than this? Just because a fair system doesn’t go to our advantage doesn’t make it wrong or bad. People still haven’t been able to bring up what system would be fairer to FIFA election than the one vote per nation.

    it is funny after the debacle that was the WC hosting vote in 2010, the argument was being made that FIFA should change the voting system for choosing a host to one vote per federation instead of what it was at the time (20+ exco members vote for the hosting rights). The argument was that with the 200+ members it would be harder for buying votes and it would be fairer. Yet now with the presidency election the same media are making it sound that letting everyone vote is a bad thing.

    The message being sent here to people outside of Western world is: Democracy is great except when it doesn’t work for us?

    • Flyvanescence

      June 9, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      That message has been ringing through loud and clear for decades.

    • patrick

      June 9, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      One vote per nation is like the US president being elected one vote per state. How is this fair?

      • Pakapala

        June 10, 2015 at 10:57 am

        Patrick wrote:
        “One vote per nation is like the US president being elected one vote per state. How is this fair?”

        No it is not. FIFA doesn’t have states (countries) as their members; the members are the national football federations of those countries. Geographic size or population of the countries where those federations are doesn’t factor into it and should not. As such every single federation is 1 member of FIFA. Each member gets a vote. That is fair.
        That is completely different than the States of the US that has to reflect the populations of those states because the single individuals of those states are voting in the US presidential election. So the States have to reflect that.

        If we are to follow your comment, what would be fair is that China, India should have more votes than Italy, Uruguay, etc… because of their size and/or population? Of course not!

        • patrick

          June 10, 2015 at 10:08 pm

          Each US state is a member state of USA. So should each member of the USA get a vote each? Countries and states are made up of individuals. Similarly, the federations should represent the players. A fair system should factor in this. Bigger federations should get more votes. This is fair.

  3. ManUtdFan

    June 9, 2015 at 5:00 am

    One nation having one vote seems fair; while Blatter and co might have exploited this to consolidate power, I don’t see how it directly enables corruption. The alternative would be to give some nations more votes than others, but assuming weightage will rest on performance rankings, that just means power will just cycle between the usual European and South American countries. In this alternative arrangement I don’t think we would ever have seen the World Cup awarded to Japan and South Korea, for example, which would be a shame because I thought the competition was a real spectacle.

    As much as I would like to see FIFA cleaned up, I think they should keep the current voting arrangement.

    • David

      June 9, 2015 at 6:04 pm

      The one vote system does enable corruption. Poor countries are more swayed by bribes for a vote with an amount of money that wouldn’t be considered much in Western countries. We have already seen that happen. Having said that, I do think the one vote system is fair and should remain, but it does open the door for corruption. How do you stop the corruption? Don’t know.

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