FIFA’s Current Constitution Beyond Repair

 

David Miller recounts his sixty-year observation of football’s governing body

It may sound pompous to say so. Yet almost every critic discussing the crisis within football’s international federation has, in my opinion, largely got it wrong. The chaos arises less because people are corrupt – which, within FIFA, many are – rather more that the complex constitution of this vast, mega-wealthy organisation is incapable of controlling the manipulative individual vices of power, avarice and nationalism. I have been observing football’s impetuous maladministration, at home and abroad, ever since playing with England’s amateur international squad in the Fifties; guided by team manager and former Corinthian legend Norman Creek, who had no power of selection under a jobsworth chairman who could not positionally identify his own players by the end of a match. Perfidy ran through England’s Football Association/Football League partnership, still there today, and has been rampantly worse within FIFA, notwithstanding a leavening of some well-intentioned, honest men such as Lennart Johansson of Sweden and earlier Stanley Rous of England. Following England’s team abroad from the World Cup of 1958 and more than twenty Congresses, FIFA’s factionalised relationship between continents was transparently evident despite cosmetic courtesies. An acknowledged independent leader capable of resolving FIFA’s turmoil could have been either of two eminent men: Richard Pound, Montreal QC and the man appointed by IOC president Samaranch as Ad-Hoc litigation chairman for exorcizing the Salt Lake City bribery scandal of 1998-99 – in the event a poisoned chalice – which necessitated the expulsion of guilty members, partly contributing to Pound, as inaugural chairman of WADA, surrendering his chance of succeeding Samaranch two years later, or Francois Carrard, Swiss attorney, for many years a fountain of wisdom as director-general alongside Pound advising Samaranch, on central issues such as South Africa’s return in 1991, and now currently chairman of FIFA’s 2016 Reform Committee. This will present its proposals in December, for consideration at an Extraordinary Congress in February. Unfortunately, under FIFA regulations, neither Pound nor Carrard is eligible as candidate for the presidency, the runners to be announced next week. The delicate position is that, if the Congress accept the reforms, the elected president will be bound to enforce them. Who is capable?

People with the dominant personality of Joao Havelange of Brazil and Sepp Blatter of Switzerland, successive FIFA presidents, are common enough in many commercial walks of life: on the surface accommodating, even charming. But with their access to the legal distribution of extensive wealth, beyond sufficient regulation scrutiny, into the grasp of others driven by nationalist and personal ambition – and more particularly on account of their constitutional authority to appoint supportive committee acolytes – the chemistry of manipulative vested interest races out of control. The question today is not whether there is anyone within FIFA ranks with the integrity, competent and authority to succeed Blatter – almost certainly not – but whether the combination of the Reform Committee and the Ad-Hoc Election Committee can devise a new constitution, similar to that of the IOC sixteen years ago, that will be globally transparent. Pound or Carrard cannot lead this. FIFA’s stables need extensive cleansing. Not only are there multiple offenders in every continent, both national and confederation officers, but those professionally honest are guilty by neglect: failing to pursue known offenders because, conditioned by their own self-interest, they have not wished to de-stabilise the financial gold rush: the England federation no exception. Why has no national federation such as Australia, USA or England not already initiated legal action against FIFA, prior to FBI and Swiss investigation? The complex, deep-seated corrosion lies in the system, which has insulated the individuals. The president of FIFA, as in any IF, is able to exert legitimate, often extensive and clandestine influence on the election of officials to the many committees. Along with lavish daily travelling ‘allowances’ – and annual funding donations to every national federation, the destination of which is often obscure – many officials from tiny federations enjoy a lifestyle way beyond their regular employment. Their priorities are thus loyalty to the President and their own re-election. Consequently, on voting issues, the President has swathes of support safely in hand. The combination of suffrage and funding – under agreed regulations, never mind random bribery – has inevitably led to prejudiced decisions. Both Havelange and Blatter enjoyed repetitive re-election with, partially, the help of unconsidered support from Africa’s many nations. Attending FIFA Congresses over five decades, later as member of the Press Commission, I perceived many trends. Havelange’s defeat of Rous, at Frankfurt in 1974, had an air of inevitability. He had widely campaigned across Africa, after staging a promotional mini-World Cup by invitation in Rio. Many delegates from small, impecunious nations, never previously in attendance, suddenly appeared at Frankfurt. Rous, a figure of stoic propriety, mistakenly chaired a controversial disciplinary hearing against the Soviet Union for having refused to play Chile in a qualifying playoff in Santiago, alleging the stadium had been used to corral political prisoners. Rous could have delegated this.

Havelange comfortably gained the votes he needed. Over the coming years his patronage flowed. In World Cup tournaments up to 1966, there had been no African finalist – bar Egypt in 1934 – then only Morocco in 1970 and Zaire in 1974, alongside Europe’s ten out of 16 places. From 1978 (Tunisia), Africa’s numbers steadily rose, Havelange having raised the finalists to 24: Algeria and Cameroon in ’82, Algeria and Morocco in ’86; Morocco, Cameroon and Nigeria in ’94; and, having increased the total to 32, five Africans in ’98, plus now three Asians. In 1984, a replacement host had suddenly been required for scheduled Colombia: three contenders, USA, Canada and Mexico – previously hosts in 1970, and now heavily championed by Mexican television – presented their credentials in Stockholm. While USA, fronted by Henry Kissinger, were last in making their presentation, Mexico could be observed in reception laying out the champagne glasses for celebration, the Executive not even having met to make their decision. At the conventional press conference prior to kick-off in Mexico, Havelange was asked by a Dutch journalist: “Is it true you have shares in Televisa Mexicana?” With those steely blue eyes unmoved, Havelange replied: “Yes. So what!” For World Cup 2002, Havelange was known effectively to have promised the tournament to Japan, but UEFA, led by Johansson, was lobbying strongly for a shared hosting with South Korea. The Koreans resisted this, reluctant to be conciliatory at the 1996 election. I was consulted – known for close association with UEFA – and advised the Korean government that they should make a statement, accepting joint hosting “if that is the wish of FIFA”. Clandestinely advised by Samaranch to avoid defeat, Havelange entered the decisive executive meeting, saying: “Gentlemen, I have a splendid idea – joint hosting!” Havelange had been everyone’s sugar daddy: FIFA had the cash. A figurehead surprisingly not yet featured in crisis enquiries is Jean Marie Weber, former chief of marketing agency ISL, whose long-standing association with FIFA raised repeated controversy. If Weber wished, he could reveal some skeletons. By 2014, for instance, now under Blatter’s reign, accountancy shows that FIFA’s senior management, numbering nearly forty, were being paid an average of nearly $1m per head per annum. In the Olympic field, only Scott Blackmun, USOC Secretary General, receives such salary. Thus FIFA can metaphorically play with money. How else could Blatter reward Michel Platini an undivulged, unexplained million dollars over a nine-year interval? Blatter had succeeded Havelange in 1998, when out-voting Johansson, president of UEFA. Then general secretary, Blatter had announced his intention to run: FIFA’s Executive, dominated by UEFA members, misguidedly ruled that he should instantly cease daily operation. This perverse decision immediately freed him to campaign across Africa and Asia, accumulating like Havelange a winning vote. Fast forward to 2010 and the double election for World Cups 2018/2022. Blatter had had the known ambition to steer final tournaments to South Africa, Russia, and then the Middle East: legitimate targets as football’s leader. Whether or not financial malpractice played its part, criminal investigation in the US and Switzerland is now about to reveal. Let me cite one fact. In February 2010, ten months before the vote, Lord Triesman, temporarily England’s chairman, was advised by Dan Tana – Serbian former member of the FA as leader of Brentford FC in London, and currently on board UEFA’s professional clubs committee – that bidding was a waste of time and money, that 2018 was effectively a done deal for Russia, directly supported by both Blatter and Michel Platini, head of UEFA. Triesman ignored the advice, England’s campaign spent £10m travelling the world and believing false promises from FIFA executives, concurrently humiliating prince William and Prime Minister Cameron in the process, ultimately gaining a mere two votes, one their own. Subsequent protests by England – their situation widely envied by foreign officials for the financial status of the Premier League – have served only to distance England ever further from international support. New chairman Greg Dyke, former TV tycoon, has all the sophistication of a mechanised street-sweeper with his uninformed but comprehensive staff reductions. Working in 2010 as consultant for South Korea, bidding for 2022, I witnessed their campaign team, led by Chung Mong-Joon – currently suspended by FIFA – in some confusion. They endless debated suspected financial inducements by Qatar, yet had no proof and no counter measure. They acquiesced defeat in quiet fury. As journalist, I had two interviews with Asian Confederation president Bin Hammam, Qatar’s contender challenging for Blatter’s title, and subsequently suspended for financial impropriety. However it was abundantly clear to me, at personal meetings at the Ritz Hotel in London and before the controversial Brazil v Argentina friendly in Doha shortly before the vote – an enticement for South American support for Qatar? – that Bin Hammam was vigorously lobbying on behalf of Qatar, rather than for his own personal candidature. Yet this perception was subsequently rejected both by Qatar and by FIFA. Why was Platini regularly to be observed in consultation with Hammam beside Doha’s beach? Protest about the Russia/Qatar selections in Britain’s parliament, led by Damian Collins, lacked any first-hand understanding of FIFA obtuse practices over decades, thus further damaging England’s standing… admittedly among the corrupt voters. Meanwhile, the notion of Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, head of Africa’s confederation (CAF) being interim FIFA president is a sad joke – he failing to oppose exclusive advertising by Qatar, as 2022 World Cup host candidate, during the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola. Hayatou was warned of impropriety by IOC. Nothing surprises me. Long ago, arranging hotel and training facilities in London for a famous foreign club playing a European Cup tie in London, I went to meet the even more famous owner at London Airport: “Everything is fixed,” I gladly told him. “Everything except the referee!” he replied with a sly smile. I am thankful just to be a life member of that historic, now long forgotten club, Corinthian-Casuals, which bravely took the game to Sao Paulo, and to be past player and honorary president of Old Carthusians, FA Cup winners in 1881.

Reprinted by Courtesy of sport intern, the international inside World sports news letter.

 

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