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."

Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit