With fresh allegations and damning stories breaking every day, it seems we are still only scratching the surface of Federation Internationale de Football Association’s (Fifa) farcical story of corruption and deceit. Simply clouding football’s governing body even more, President Sepp Blatter, Secretary General Jerome Valcke and UEFA Chief Michel Platini have all been suspended for 90 days, pending the conclusion of an official investigation over the extent of the rot. But from the point of view of football fans across the world, the most surprising element of this saga is how unsurprising these latest revelations are.
Indeed, the words ‘corrupt’ and ‘Fifa’ have been joined at the hip for the past decade. From dodgy backroom deals and missing funds, to unexplainable decisions and bizarre choices, almost everything about this governing body is laughable. With the allegations of misdoing now stretching to the dizzy heights of Sepp Blatter, it seems the authority of football’s governing body is now undoubtedly in jeopardy.
Many have argued that these simple matters of corruption actually matter little. Ignoring the fact that these shady millionaires in pin-striped suits are able to siphon off millions with ease, they argue that the high levels of corruption have not made it onto the pitch yet; stadiums remain full, fans continue to buy merchandise, and the quality of football is arguably at its highest. Of course, to argue such nonsense is naive, for it ignores the wide-reaching scope and influence that Fifa has managed to develop since its birth in over a century ago. Despite being classified as a non-profit-organisation, it has amalgamated a staggering financial reserve of over $1 billion, and has many fingers in many pies across the globe, influencing the laws and judiciary procedures of the nations it selects to hold their prestigious world cup tournaments. On a more local level, Blatter has built his impenetrable tower of support by allocating assets to developing nations in order to fund local projects and schemes designed to reduce crime and increase participation in football.
Although Fifa’s influence may seem rather minimal in glossy countries such as the UK and Germany, for a child growing up in a favela in Ecuador, heading to his first Fifa-funded tournament, the organisation certainly has the power to make or break a life. Clearly, then, Fifa is responsible for supporting the footballing community in every inch of the globe. But what can come next? A few simple, albeit radical, changes would fill the hearts of every football fan with confidence.
The first is a complete overhaul of Fifa’s line-up of officials. With Blatter on the way out, Platini was considered to be his natural replacement, having secured the backing of many of Europe’s football associations. However, these recent allegations charge Platini with having accepted bribes of around two million euros; a charge that will certainly rule him out of the running. Indeed, it will be a tall order finding an individual that has not been pricked with this poison. As stressed by former England striker Gary Lineker, a completely new team of fresh-faced, honest individuals might be the kick that Fifa needs to get it back on the rails.
The second necessary change is taking the illustrious World Cup tournament out of the hands of the Russians and Qataris. These nations are set to host football’s centrepiece event in 2018 and 2022 respectively. However, unsurprisingly both world cup bids are rumoured to have revolved significantly around a complex web of back-handed bribes, not to mention that both nations have come under fire for repeated human rights violations; it has been estimated that around 4,000 migrant construction workers will lose their lives in Qatar before a single ball is kicked.
Luckily, the organisation is spoilt for choice of replacements. From England, France, Germany and Italy, Fifa is blessed with an arsenal of nations capable of hosting the tournament next week if need be, thanks to their well-run domestic leagues. A few traffic diversion signs might need to be placed, but the stadia, transport links and hospitality systems are already in place.
The only way to rebuild football’s governing body is to draw a line in the sand and start afresh. Much like a growth, Fifa’s corrupt past must be cut out if the organisation hopes to regain any sort of respect and authority. Until then, it seems the beautiful game will remain an ugly portrait, framed by the greed of unpopular officials and punctuated with the unpleasant colour of deception and trickery.