James Lawton: Rebelling against Fifa is now a moral imperative

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The Independent Online

It may be too soon to say that Fifa is beginning to drown in its own effluents but in the meantime there is a prospect that can only trigger unqualified satisfaction.

This is provided by vice-president Jack Warner's scheduled appearance on Sunday in front of something world football's ruling body describes, without a trace of irony, as its ethics committee. For years he has spat in the face of his critics. Now, for a little while at least, he will be required to stand still.

Warner is charged with facilitating attempts by Fifa president Sepp Blatter's rival Mohamed bin Hammam to bribe Caribbean voters in the coming election after a whistle-blowing blast by his erstwhile American ally Chuck Blazer. If you could get over the nausea, it would be funny, this desperate end-game being played by the profoundly discredited Blatter.

Yet if the motives appear almost surreally detached from reformist zeal, there surely has to be some long-term benefit from the possibility that Warner, so long an arrogant dodger of corruption charges, may finally have been caught up in a web which so many believe he has helped to weave.

It is surely a small leap from former Football Association chairman and England World Cup bid leader Lord Triesman's allegation that Warner was touting for personal control of a £2m school fund, to be built as his legacy in Trinidad, to Blazer's claim that he had effectively become Bin Hammam's election bag-man.

Yet however the ethics committee moves, one conclusion is hard to avoid. It is that if Blatter has seized on a sure-fire re-election move, he may also have dealt a killing blow to the idea that football will be involved in the madness of staging the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Bin Hammam is the architect of the Qatar bid that has already been scarred by claims of major bribery. If Fifa shoots down Bin Hamman, how can it then avoid the need to dismantle the project he masterminded – especially one believed by many to represent the point where Fifa greed overrode every other factor, including its own long-term survival?

As the reputation of Fifa slides, as some rats not so much leave a sinking ship as start to fight among themselves, major football figures like Germany's Franz Beckenbauer and Uefa president Michel Platini are surely obliged to consider the damage to their reputations implicit in any lip service to the ruling body. Platini, who is seen by many as Blatter's heir apparent, may be too far down the road of compromise, but someone of Beckenbauer's authority must surely feel more than a twinge of reappraisal now.

The argument of despair is that Fifa has created its own unassailable empire and that none of the leading nations are likely to have the nerve to rebel and cut themselves off from the revenue streams provided by the World Cup. Yet this hazard is rapidly becoming not so much a choice but a moral imperative.

The FA has made one small gesture in abstaining from the presidential vote. This brought considerable derision on its head, but it did at least represent a stirring of understanding that Fifa's credibility had sunk to the gutter. Now, something of greater potential is surely required, perhaps with government support.

It is time for something more than protest and prissy complaint. Jack Warner's day in court promises a little grotesque entertainment, no doubt, but the joke has surely run its course.

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