As a former long-serving detective in his country’s police force, it is tempting to think of Denmark’s representative at Uefa as a man given to wearing knitted sweaters and taking his time over things. This week, however, Allan Hansen is proposing a very radical solution to world football’s Sepp Blatter problem.
At 66, and with a 12-year stint as chairman of the Danish football association (DBU) already behind him, this might as well be the classic tale of the wise old cop coming back to crack one last case. To paraphrase his namesake in British football, you’ll never solve this problem with kids, and so on Friday in Berlin the Uefa nations’ big hitters will gather ahead of the Champions League final to discuss how to take down Blatter using the most effective weapon they have.
Speaking to Hansen on Monday, he did not sound like a man spoiling for a fight, rather one who had come to realise over 20 years in football administration that there would be no other way. “Radical” is how he described his proposal, first raised at a meeting before Blatter’s re-election last week at the Fifa Congress, that a core of Uefa countries boycott the World Cup finals, instead staging a biennial European Championship with invitees from South America to replicate something of the global appeal of the Fifa tournament.
The sad thing is that getting rid of Blatter has brought us to the prospect of torpedoing the greatest tournament in football, for a short period at least. Yet if even the great conservatives of Uefa recognise that as the only way forward, it feels like some tough decisions have to be made. Boycotting the World Cup finals feels like boycotting Christmas, or summer holidays, or pub gardens. The finals are one of life’s great pleasures – precious, exciting, with each four-year edition bestowing on the winners an inalienable place in the game’s history.
The Fifa bigwigs facing charges
The Fifa bigwigs facing charges
1/14 Jeffrey Webb, 50, Cayman Iskands
A Fifa vice president. His arrest came as a big surprise, as he had been tipped as the man to clean up Fifa once Blatter departs. Webb is also president of Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) and the Cayman Islands Football Association
2/14 Costas Takkas, 58, UK
A British citizen, Mr Takkas is currently an attache to the Concacaf president. He was previously general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association, of which Mr Webb is president
3/14 Jack Warner, 72, (pictured), Daryan Warner, 46 and Daryll Warner, 40, Trinidad & Tobago
The former Fifa vice president and head of Concacaf was a dominant force in football for 30 years, but was suspended from his roles in 2011 amid accusations of corruption dating back to the 1980s and an investigation by Fifa's ethics committee. He later resigned, ending the proceedings against him. Daryan Warner, the son of Jack Warner is also believed to have co-operated with the FBI. He pleaded guiltyin October 2013 to wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and the structuring of financial transactions, forfeiting $1.1m. Daryll Warner, another of Jack Warner's sons, he pleaded guilty to various offences in July 2013. A former Fifa development officer, he lost the job in 2012 after his father's resignation amid corruption allegations. He and his brother both face up to 10 years in prison
4/14 Charles Blazer, 70, USA
The former Concacaf general secretary reportedly turned "supergrass" to help the FBI inestigation, using a bugging device hidden inside a key fob to record meetigs with his Fifa colleagues at the London 2012 Olympics. In November 2013 he pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and income tax evasion. Seriously ill with colon cancer
5/14 Rafael Esquivel, 68, Venezuela
Executive committee member of the South American Football Confederetion (Conmebol). It is alleged that officials at Conmebol, which organises the Copa America, received bribes from marketing executives
6/14 Eugenio Figueredo, 83, USA/Uruguay
The Fifa vice president and executive committee member is a big name in world football, having previously been at the head of Conmebol and the Uruguayan Football Association. A former right-back
7/14 Nicolas Leoz, 86, Paraguay
A former Fifa executive committee member and Conmebol president. When he retired in 2013 for health reasons, he said: "I've not stolen so much as a cent"
8/14 Eduardo Li, 56, Costa Rica
President of the Costa Rican Football Federation. He was elected to Fifa's executive commitee in March
9/14 José Maria Marin, 83, Brazil
The former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation is also a member of Fifa's committee for Olympic tournaments
10/14 Julio Rocha, 64, Nicaragua
Fifa development officer. Previously president of his country's football federation
11/14 José Hawilla, 71, Brazil
The owner and founder of the Traffic Group, a sports marketing conglomerate, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy in 2014. Two of his companies - Traffic Sports International Inc and Traffic Sports USA Inc - have also pleaded guilty
12/14 Aaron Davidson, 44, USA
President of Traffic Sports USA, is a large promoter of football events in America
13/14 Alejandro Burzaco, 50, (pictured), Hugo Jinkis, 70 and Mariano Jinkis, 40, Argentina
Alejandro Burzaco, a media executive who controls Torneos y Competencias, a sports marketing business. Hugo Jinkis, is the president of Full Play Group, a sports marketing business in Argentina. His son Mariano, is vice president
14/14 José Margulies (AKA José Lazaro), 75, Brazil
Although he is in broadcasting, it is alleged he served as an intermediary to facilitate illicit payments between sports marketing executives and Fifa officials
But if world football is to be a fair place, in which corruption is not tolerated, then Blatter must go, and everything is in play, including the future of the World Cup finals. Or at the very least its future must be placed in serious doubt if this is not to be an idle threat from the reformers at Uefa.
The problems in achieving a majority consensus in Uefa are manifest, with at least 10 to 15 of Uefa’s 54 associations having ignored the agreement to vote for Prince Ali of Jordan to back Blatter instead at the presidential election last week. Clearly Russia, the 2018 hosts and staunch allies of Blatter, will not agree to boycotting their own tournament and the challenge will include persuading nations like France and Spain over to the anti-Blatter side.
It is the sad truth, Hansen said, that democracy has not served Fifa particularly well in the rise of Blatter. Where Fifa differs from the United Nations is that the former has no equivalent of the Security Council to take the big decisions. The one-member, one-vote system that gives Germany or the United States the same influence as the smallest string of islands under Jack Warner’s control in the Caribbean has delivered five straight election victories for Blatter.
“I am really in favour of a fair and democratic process,” Hansen said. “I have realised it is not possible because there are so many associations who don’t want to change. It’s a case of the old proverb, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If we [Europe] break out and run our own business, I am sure that these countries that don’t want change will realise they can’t miss Europe. I know it is not democratic but if we want in the future to have a Fifa as we know it today [a global organisation], then we have to do some radical things.”
It is not hard to see how this breakaway, if it happens, will be portrayed by the Russia-Blatter side: as an Old World coup by white European males trying to grab back some of their lost power from the emerging powers of Africa and Asia. In many respects that is exactly what it will be. Yet even that is preferable to the great swindle that persists now, where Fifa exists largely to enrich its network of association presidents and chairmen who reconvene every few years to re-elect the chief.
As such, Hansen’s plan is an interesting test of Europe’s commitment to a clean game. For Denmark, economically stable, politically transparent, going after Blatter and the corruption he has presided over is no problem at all. For other, less stable countries, who look to the Gulf oil states for investment, or the Asian economic powers, the question is more fraught.
They will have to be given reassurances that the toppling of Blatter is worth the pain of having to explain to their football public that the World Cup finals might have to be sacrificed in order to do so. As the pressure has built on Blatter’s Fifa, he has always banked on the belief that a European World Cup boycott would be too much to ask, but the very fact it will be discussed on Friday is a sign that the wind is changing direction.
By September, Uefa will have to come to a decision on Hansen’s proposal and Blatter will know what he is up against in Europe. It already feels that were Uefa to back down an inch from a World Cup boycott the Fifa president will have won in that regard, leaving the old establishment of European football to rely on the FBI to do their work for them. It is about time Europe did its bit.
Wearisome Wilshere running out of time to grow up
We can all be cool about one or two formative mistakes from a young footballer involving cigarettes, alcohol, or even – god forbid – ripe language, especially come the end of the season. But it has got to the stage now where Jack Wilshere’s misjudgements are numerous enough to make you wonder whether he will ever be capable of learning from his mistakes.
Sunday’s performance by Wilshere with the mic at the Emirates victory parade was guaranteed to play well with @TheLadBible, if that’s your thing. But for a serious footballer with serious ambitions, the beery Tottenham call-and-response episode – for the second year in a row – was enough to make you wince.
He did the same at the FA Cup parade last year, just as he has been photographed smoking a cigarette twice and once with the shisha pipe. In isolation, these can be explained away as the usual mishaps of a young footballer, and in the past my instinct has been to defend him. The problem for Wilshere is that it keeps happening. He has his behaviour reprimanded by club or manager, and then he does it all over again.
Since his most recent return from injury, Wilshere has started two games for Arsenal. He played 15 minutes in the FA Cup final. When England exited the World Cup finals last summer, Wilshere said that the time for him was now. “It’s easy for me to stand here and say we’re young... time is running out for us to say we’re young. I’ll be 23 in January and that’s a good age for a footballer.”
Too true, and if Alexis Sanchez or Mesut Özil can get through an FA Cup parade without doing anything that obliges the club to apologise, then Wilshere should be able to as well.Reuse content