The one topic that unites almost every segment of the soccer world is the need to reform its governing body, FIFA. Unfortunately, the man who is ringing in the changes, one Michel Platini —who officially announced his candidacy Wednesday, has a murky past. He voted for Qatar in the bidding for the 2020 World Cup, and worked closely with former France President Nicolas Sarkozy to help use his influence to Qatar win the vote in exchange for Qatar purchasing $7 billion worth of French fighter jets.
Certainly on the surface, Platini ticks a number of boxes which might ease some minds:
• Former world-class footballer (unlike Blatter who was a pure businessman),
• Overseer of the most established Confederation in soccer (UEFA), and
• A man who has looked to reform some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of European football (such as transfer spending through Financial Fair Play).
But when you scrape below, you’ll start to see some real issues.
When one thinks of scandal and FIFA, the awarding of Qatar 2022 immediately comes to mind. Unless your head has been firmly planted in Middle Eastern sand, you should realize this is an ongoing stain on the sport. Arrests, raids, document seizures, and deportations – these have all become commonplace for FIFA executives in recent months.
And in the midst of all of this, Platini has admitted to voting for the Qatar bid. He has also been one of the strongest proponents to move the tournament to winter to accommodate the extraordinarily harsh temperatures experienced in that region. As a former player, one can understand his desire for player safety. But as the head of UEFA, he must realize the bind his would create in his own region, interrupting the normal league season throughout Europe. And for what, to spread the game to a country smaller than the state of Connecticut (and with only 60% of the population)?
We’re supposed to believe that Platini is squeaky clean in this entire debacle? That he had no part in the shady aspects of the Qatar bid? That he has received no compensation for his consistent support of a World Cup that has cost workers’ lives and which could endanger the health of players in sweltering conditions?
Reports detail which FA’s are planning to support Platini. It is no surprise for Platini to have already lined up his European ducks in a row. But with CONCACAF presumably leaning in the direction of supporting Platini, a real interesting case could develop: the United States.