Sepp Blatter keen to keep Fifa on even keel

Governing body opens 62nd congress with little sign of change

Sepp Blatter is fond of a nautical metaphor. Here's how it goes: Fifa is a ship, he is its stolid captain and no matter how stormy the waters become, nothing will force him to seek safety below. He will remain on the bridge.

A year ago in Zurich, Blatter was re-elected – from a field of one – to serve a fourth term as president of world football's governing body amid just such a storm, a whirlwind of controversy and corruption. Such was its strength that even Blatter acknowledged things had to change; a new course had to be set to steer his ship away from its "troubled waters".

A year on and the football family – another favourite Blatterism – has gathered for its annual congress. It opens today in the Hungexpo, a conference centre in Budapest.

"I am sure," said Blatter, "you will see at the congress that we are back in the harbour, not heaven yet, but we are taking more people on board and are heading to calm waters."

There was nothing calm at yesterday's Concacaf meeting – the regional bodies' get-together before congress proper begins – as the fallout from Jack Warner's reign gathered pace via startling claims of financial impropriety. They included a $22.5m (£14.3m) centre of excellence being built thanks to Fifa funding and allegedly ending up owned by Warner, once a key Blatter ally.

Jeff Webb, a respected Cayman Islander chosen yesterday as Warner's successor, said: "We have a responsibility to make sure the past will never be repeated. How do we pick up the pieces? How do we dust ourselves off and decide that this does not define us?"

That is the billion-dollar question.

The 61st congress, and the events surrounding it, were extraordinary to witness. Fifa, or more particularly its upper echelon, the executive committee, emerged as an embarrassment to the sport it was supposed to govern. But the man at the very top took no responsibility for what had happened during his time in office, which dates back to 1998. Blatter did at last promise change, even if that at first included a suggestion that Placido Domingo and Henry Kissinger form a new "committee of the solutions".

Instead a "road map" has been drawn up, a route to reform. It is one with some attractive service stations; early summer in Budapest, the "pearl of the Danube" as Fifa's literature puts it. Next year's congress is in Mauritius. En route there are plans for an independently led ethics committee (with the appointment of those independents, Blatter announced on Tuesday, delayed for another two months). The ethics committee, when it is finally up and running, will conduct fit-and-proper person tests on senior Fifa members, although who exactly will be subject to them is not entirely clear. Neither is it clear whether it will be asked, or have powers to, investigate the past.

Much will be discussed in Budapest, and some changes will be voted on – a new code of conduct (that does little more than state obvious levels of good practice, but at least it's there) and nodding through the ethics committee. Others will not be decided until everyone regathers in Mauritius next year. It's not a road that will be travelled in a hurry.

Last year, Fifa appointed an independent governance committee headed by Mark Pieth, a Swiss criminologist, to make recommendations. One that will be discussed, but not voted on, in Budapest is introducing age and term limits for senior figures. Never mind what congress might think, here's what Blatter, aged 76 and in his fourth term, had to say yesterday: "We don't like these age limits."

"Progress has been glacial and superficial," says Damian Collins, the Conservative MP behind Fifa Reform, a collection of MPs and MEPs from across Europe. Collins points out that Blatter has still to follow through on a key promise of last year, to release the ISL papers – Swiss court documents that name senior Fifa officials who accepted bribes. Blatter says he cannot do so because of Swiss court restrictions. Not so, says the Council of Europe – on the advice of a Swiss magistrate. Still the papers remain unreleased.

"The farce over the non-release of the ISL court papers is indicative of the lack of any real appetite for progress," says Collins. "Also, there has to be an opportunity for a full investigation into the previous allegations made against members of the Ex-co. Until this happens no reform process can have any real credibility."

"We steer the Fifa ship," writes Blatter in his foreword to the congress agenda, "towards new horizons."

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn