James Lawton: FA's last stand doomed by time spent in trenches of compromise

There could be dire consequences for the FA if Blatter seeks revenge by wiping away the independent status of the four home nations
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The Independent Football

If FA chairman David Bernstein wanted a shoulder to cry on yesterday in Zurich it was no surprise he didn't choose the one belonging to the delegate from Belarus.

The gentleman from Minsk could have told him all about the follies of voting against a well entrenched president, Alexander Lukashenko having been in charge of that remnant of Stalinism since 1994, which was four years before Sepp Blatter took control of Fifa.

One consolation could have been provided, however. Bernstein was merely made to feel like a leper in the congress hall after he argued that Blatter's formal coronation should be suspended, an appeal that made such little impact 186 of the 203 delegates said yes to another four years of football's Great Leader after being led, quite surreally, to the voting booths. At least he wasn't hauled off to some secret police dungeon.

Still, there could be dire consequences for the football of England – and that of yesterday's allies Scotland – if Blatter and his cronies seek out some ultimate revenge for the act of defiance by organising a vote to wipe away the independent status of the four home countries.

That wouldn't quite square with the triumphant Blatter's assertion that he is going to steer the Fifa ship into "transparent" waters and that this was a day to celebrate, because "something marvellous has happened today in our unity".

However, after the last few days of brutal infighting, and fresh evidence that Blatter is indeed the master puppeteer of a morally bankrupt organisation, the FA cannot be too sanguine about future possibilities.

It may feel it deserves credit for making the last stand against Blatter but it shouldn't be too aggrieved if it is told: "Yes, it's all very well, but where have you been for so long?"

Of course, the FA has been in the trenches of compromise, balancing its hopes of staging the 2018 World Cup against the ever-mounting evidence that the entire process was corrupt.

Lord Triesman, the former FA chairman, has been derided for the lateness of his revelations about his encounters on the bidding trail, but this can be less of a surprise – and a source of criticism – when we consider the silence provoked in the FA's brief investigation into his claims.

To the FA's credit, it has in the last few days made points that remain valid despite the reasonable belief that they wouldn't have been whispered if the 2018 bid, which was pronounced superior to any of its rivals by Fifa's technical committee, had been successful.

There is also the lingering irony that the FA helped swing Blatter's first access to power in 1998 when it switched its vote from Sweden's Lennart Johansson, a decision widely believed to be based on the promise it would host the 2006 World Cup.

The FA has been charged with sour grapes – but better this than some zombie compliance with yesterday's stomach-turning farce.

Charting Fifa's future remains a matter of bleak speculation, but what is clear is that the recent convulsions have at least produced some concession from Blatter that the current image of his organisation is in desperate need of some cleansing.

The rumblings of the sponsors have provided one caution against the most outrageous behaviour. The risk-laden gesture of the FA has been another. Most potent of all, maybe, is the demand of the German FA that the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar be re-examined and reconsidered.

You might have thought there could be no greater madness than yesterday. But that was just the grotesque little show of Blatter's rescued pomp. The reality is the World Cup of Qatar. If Fifa still has a mind, or anything resembling a conscience, it has to be revoked. It is the only way to step back from the edge.

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