James Lawton: Appalling? Certainly. Shocking? Certainly not – nothing is, where Fifa is concerned
Prospects of a stringently ethical new era are not encouraged by the identity of Blatter's one challenger in the election
Wednesday 11 May 2011
In London, under the protection of parliamentary privilege, Lord Triesman was telling us what we already knew about Fifa, the ruling authority of world football. He was telling us that it has the ethical underpinning of some ramshackle banana republic where the tanks periodically come trundling into the streets.
He told us about the notorious Jack Warner of Trinidad, who in exchange for a vote for England's 2018 World Cup bid suggested a monument to all his selfless work in the form of a school/football academy which would cost around £2.5m, all of which, of course, could be channelled through him.
We heard about some Paraguayan character who wanted a knighthood and someone in Thailand whose price was a match between England and Thailand with him in charge of the TV rights. A Brazilian wanted to know if the Football Association had an offer he couldn't refuse.
Appalling no doubt – but hardly carrying the power to shock, not when you considered for a moment that this is the organisation which has scheduled the 2022 World Cup for the desert enclave of Qatar, a place with not a single recommendation other than the fact that it is sitting on massive oil and gas deposits and has financial heft to throw wherever it chooses.
You had to think of this, beyond any evidence of individuals on the make, when you heard the reaction of Fifa president Sepp Blatter to Triesman's belated assault on the working morality of World Cup bids, from which Triesman was detached only because he fell into a Sunday newspaper honeytrap that put him out of office as chairman of the FA. Qatar is not a smoking gun but a funeral pyre for any confidence that Fifa can indeed re-make itself as something fit to govern the world's most popular sport.
Blatter said the latest accusations would be judged against Fifa's zero tolerance policy – and this came more or less at the time a British newspaper – one of those judged "unhelpful" in probing corruption by the FA when it was still hopeful of landing 2018 – was alleging corruption in the Qatar voting process.
There should not be too much moral indignation in the offices of the FA, not after their claims that it was in the national interest to disarm attemps to uncover the corruption of which Triesman spoke to the young female friend who had a tape running at the time.
The FA thought it could win cleanly and the fact that David Cameron and Prince William were flown to Switzerland to spin their wheels while Russia, hosts of 2018, and Qatar did the real business might just be the impetus for some government attempts to marshal international pressure.
Otherwise, yesterday's revelations are unlikely to provoke a drive for reform. Certainly the prospects of internal cleansing, a new era of stringently ethical football administration, are not encouraged by the identity of Blatter's one challenger in the upcoming Fifa presidential election.
It is Mohamed bin Hammam, leader of the Asian federation and, more pertinently, author of the Qatar outrage. It is a joke in the worst possible taste.
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