Sepp Blatter resignation: Is this the beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Blatter is gone, but it was never supposed to have happened now, and where Fifa goes from here is extremely unclear

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The Independent Football

If the dawn raid of Zurich’s Baur au Lac Hotel marked the beginning of the end for Fifa’s mafia family, Sepp Blatter’s quiet shuffling off the Zurich stage in his favoured ankle boots and through a heavy door away from his nemeses in the media should have been the points at which the credits roll.

Since 27 May there have been further arrests. In Trinidad and Tobago, of Jack Warner, Caribbean football’s former shamed overlord and in Paraguay, of Nicolas Leoz the corrupt former head of South American football. America’s corpulent Chuck Blazer, he with the Trump Tower apartment for his cats has pleaded guilty and turned informant.

Those totems of Fifa’s worst era mostly fell in 2010 or not long after. Only the boss remained and, in the far distance the grotesque end product of their greed: Qatar 2022.

 

But the most important scene still rolling is the one set somewhere in a detention centre in somewhere in Zurich, where the imposing figure of Jeffrey Webb is still rattling around in a cell, with just an hour’s walking time permitted per day.

He was supposed to be the new generation. But the allegations against him in the U.S. Attorney General’s lengthy indictment show that corruption has infected his generation too.

Blatter is gone, but it was never supposed to have happened now, and where Fifa goes from here is extremely unclear.

133 national football associations voted for Blatter on Friday, even after all that had occurred, in the previous two days and seventeen years, including all 56 associations in Africa. There is a conventional wisdom that they had been bought off by the wealth of the global game, by their share of profits from the World Cup, and by football pitches and academies built in their countries with Fifa money, in many cases, no doubt, presenting opportunities for corruption (a reality by no means limited to Africa.)

The sheer voting demographics put Africa, Asia and the Caribbean in a position of electoral superiority over the European, South and North American economic and footballing powerhouses of the world, and they quite rightly enjoy it.

Fifa’s President but one before Sepp Blatter was the Englishman Stanley Rous, who was very much in favour of football being played in apartheid South Africa.

Fifa’s disgraced blazerati were still hiding behind their bedsheets on the morning of 27 May when the politicians and popular press of England, Australia and the USA couldn’t prevent themselves from saying how ready they were to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, as if somehow a Western stitch up would be morally superior to a Russian or Arab one. These attitudes, as much as anything, are what allowed President Blatter to take control of the game, and they will not die with him. In fact they are likely to become louder.

Even post Blatter, don’t expect Fifa to suddenly curtail its vast marketing activities or for its huge revenues to suddenly reduce. It will maintain an obligation to spread that wealth around its members, which number more than the United Nations. Ensuring none is misappropriated or becomes the common currency for political favours is an all but impossible task.

On the morning of 30 May, the “tomorrow” on which Mr Blatter had claimed change would begin, among the new joiners to Fifa’s Executive Committee was Tarek Bouchamaoui, a close ally of the President ousted at the start of the Arab Spring, and a man named in the recent “HSBC leaks” over tax evasion with the help of HSBC’s Private Swiss bank. Then there is Sheikh Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti head of Asia’s Olympic Federation, and one of the most powerful men in sports politics, and around whom clouds of corruption allegations thick enough to match almost anyone already swirl. Have these men taken their seats around Fifa’s Executive Committee table, buried in the basement of its Zurich home, with the business of reform on their minds?

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