Britain may lose privileges after Fifa election attack

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Britain's long-standing special status within the Fifa hierarchy could be scrapped and replaced by a candidate from Europe, The Independent on Sunday has learned.

So angry are European federations that the FA chairman, David Bernstein, went against their overwhelming advice not to try and postpone last week's Fifa election that they are considering pushing for Uefa to take over the automatic Fifa vice-presidency that has been a British privilege for 63 years.

Although there has long been considerable resentment in Fifa about what is seen as an unnecessary anachronism, Europe has always been behind the so-called automatic British seat, taken over by Northern Irishman Jim Boyce at last week's Fifa Congress.

But Europe's support is now eroding because of Bernstein, with several sources telling The IoS that Britain no longer deserves to have the position all to itself, a view apparently shared by Uefa's president Michel Platini, who is likely to replace Sepp Blatter as head of Fifa in four years' time. A number of associations approached Boyce straight after Bernstein's intervention in Zurich and warned him the British seat has now been weakened. "They said I had a hell of a task," Boyce said last night. "They felt I had a lot to live up to."

It is understood that Boyce, who takes over from the former FA chairman Geoff Thompson, was not consulted prior to Bernstein's intervention. While he refused to comment on the apparent European backlash, he admitted he had taken over the position at a time when it has never been under greater threat. "I don't think any British vice-president installed at Fifa has come in under the kind of circumstances that I have. Some people have asked me what I have let myself in for. There could be repercussions on a lot of fronts but I hope there won't be.

"There have been in the past rumblings about the British privileges and it's an onerous task. But I'll do everything in my power to rebuild the bridges that have been broken. Damage has been done but it's not irreparable."

One of Boyce's first tasks will be to seek a meeting with Argentina's Julio Grondona, the most senior Fifa member after Blatter, who attacked England with such venom in Zurich after Bernstein's show of defiance, and was supported by a handful of other speakers from Haiti to Cyprus. "I'll try and speak to Mr Grondona at the World Cup draw in Rio in July," said Boyce. "I don't know him but I want to speak to him and others who said what they said about England. I don't think his comments should have been made."

Boyce has refused to criticise Bernstein's stand and admits he was surprised that no other federations had the nerve to stand up publicly and back him. Sixteen associations lined up in favour of Bernstein and 17 more abstained. "I was shocked that no one else got up and appeared to support what David said," Boyce said.

With the veteran Fifa powerbroker Jack Warner and Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam under investigation for their alleged roles in the biggest bribery scandal in Fifa history, Boyce added: "What I have said is that if certain individuals – not just Bin Hammam and Warner – are proven to be corrupt in any form, they shouldn't be there."

The power struggle within Concacaf heightened yesterday when the North and Central American federation provisionally banned their acting president, Lisle Austin of Barbados, for allegedly violating rules. He faces a Fifa hearing on 13 July. Concacaf did not specify details of the case.

The vice-president, Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, has assumed Austin's role. Austin himself had taken the interim post after long-time president Jack Warner of Trinidad was suspended by Fifa last Sunday.

Fifa are investigating Warner and Bin Hammam for allegedly bribing Caribbean voters during Bin Hamman's failed bid for the Fifa presidency. They deny the claims.

Comments