Two of the most powerful men in British football – Greg Dyke and David Gill – have told Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, he must quit next year and should abandon any plans to stand for a fifth term of office at an organisation whose image he is damaging.
Dyke, the Football Association chairman, told Blatter to his face at a meeting of Uefa’s national associations that he was polluting Fifa’s reputation, but it was after he and FA vice-chairman Gill emerged from the associations’ pre-World Cup conference that they delivered their staunchest attack on Blatter.
Dyke was scathing in his criticism of Blatter’s first public response, on Monday, to media allegations of bribery ahead of Qatar being awarded the 2020 World Cup. “What Mr Blatter said yesterday I found offensive. I said [to him], ‘I regard the comments you made about the allegations in the British media in which you described them as racist as totally unacceptable.
“The allegations being made have nothing to do with racism, they are allegations about corruption within Fifa. These allegations need to be properly investigated and properly answered. Mr Blatter, many of us are deeply troubled by your reaction to these allegations, it’s time for Fifa to stop attacking the messenger and instead consider and understand the message.”
Dyke said that Blatter must go if the allegations of bribery over the Qatar 2022 World Cup are proved to have foundation by Fifa’s head of ethics, the American lawyer Michael Garcia. But Gill offered an unqualified assessment that Blatter must stand aside for a better president next year. He is clearly even more indignant than Dyke about the way the Swiss is damaging the integrity of the governing body and football in general.
Gill said: “This wasn’t about [racism], it was about issues being raised quite rightly in the British media. It doesn’t matter which media does it; it was raised in the media, and it must be addressed by the governing body of world football. To attempt to portray it as a racial or discriminatory attack is… totally unacceptable.”
Gill added: “It was a responsible [newspaper] investigation. It wasn’t done irresponsibly. It wasn’t done with any other agenda. We can’t have football being the No 1 game in the world, growing year by year, without having that responsibility around it.”
Gill said he was “surprised” that Blatter had gone back on his own suggestion – made last year – that he would make his fourth term of office his last.
“I think the very fact in 2011 he was clear that it was for four years. I think that should’ve been the situation. To have him change his mind is disappointing.” Asked if Blatter should go, he said: “Personally, yes. I think we need to move on. But what I do think we need is a fully, frank and honest debate. That’s just my personal opinion. There are 209 countries voting for the new president [next year] and what I would like to see is a full, frank, open debate about what Fifa need, who the candidates are in order to fill those objectives, then we can move it forward.”
Gill said it was “irrelevant” that Blatter had not voted for the Qatar 2022 bid. “He should, as a chief executive effectively of the organisation, [be in control.] The World Cup is their biggest product; this is the one that generates all the income for Fifa every four years. It is the most important competition in world football so if I was the chief executive of it then I should be very concerned.
“If I was the chief executive and I had these allegations and these concerns I wouldn’t look at them negatively and blame people for bringing them forward – I would say, is there something there, how do I investigate them properly how do I get myself comfortable on the process? That would be my concern.”
The head of the Dutch FA, Michael van Praag, later added his criticism: “I took the floor [at the meeting] and I said [to Blatter]: ‘This is nothing personal but if you look at the reputation Fifa has built over the last seven or eight years, with accusations of corruptions, bribery and all kinds of old-boys network things: Fifa has an executive president and that means you are responsible. You don’t make it easy on yourself because you said Qatar was the wrong choice. All these problems occurred when you were president so I believe that you should not run any more’.”