Robin Scott-Elliot: Fifa is in the crisis – not that they realise it

It takes more than scandal to disturb the serenity of football's governing body
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The Independent Online

The excitement was tangible. Cup final day in Switzerland and hundreds of FC Sion fans festooned in red and white packed the main hall of Basle station, anthems booming over the concourse. Outside, riot police sweated in their vans. There was no sign of a disturbance. But an hour's train ride away, in the hills above Zurich, the scene was less peaceful.

For a body facing the worst crisis of its 107-year history, there was little sense of siege outside Fifa's headquarters, a squat building swaddled in steel netting and smoked glass that sits amid well-tended flower beds and football pitches. A sunny Sunday afternoon in a Zurich suburb does not encourage uprising, and there was no sense of the football tsunami Jack Warner, one of the accused and a key player in Fifa, has threatened is heading football's way as allegations and counter-allegations mount.

It is one of the curiosities of the recent months of growing scandal – serious and convincing claims of widespread corruption among the body that oversees the world's most popular sport – that national interest has been largely confined to the UK media. England's disastrous finale to its 2018 World Cup bid was blamed by some on media attacks on Fifa and the suspect practices of some Executive Committee members.

Yesterday the majority of print journalists at the press conference were from British newspapers. This is a body that now has an income of $1bn (£606m), monies that largely stem from the World Cup, the destination of which is determined by 24 men. Ten of them have been the subject of accusations of impropriety at one stage or another.

The first to face the ethics committee, a body that triggers a snigger among the more cynical Fifa watchers, was Chuck Blazer, the ample-figured New Yorker who brought the current, and most serious, round of allegations to the governing body's attention; bundles of hundreds of $100 notes, brown envelopes – meaty ingredients to stir into a murky stew.

The accused followed: Jack Warner, a 28-year Fifa veteran, Mohamed Bin Hammam, hours after he pulled out of the presidential contest, and finally Sepp Blatter, the man who some claim has turned Fifa into his fiefdom during a 13- year reign. He brought no legal representation. By 5pm it was over, and an hour later the media were given the announcement. On the desk where Petrus Damaseb, the Namibian judge who chaired the committee, sat was a football – a Fifa-approved Adidas football.

The sportswear giants are one of football's biggest sponsors, but last week they voiced their disquiet over the swirl of allegations that bounced from smart hotels in the Caribbean to the scenic shores of Lake Zurich to Westminster, the Middle East and back again. How much more will they and other backers put up with?

A fountain outside Fifa HQ has a steel plaque attached to it that bears the name Sepp Blatter. On Wednesday it seems inevitable – he is uncontested – that the 75-year-old Swiss will be returned for a fourth term as Fifa president "We do not need revolution" has been his theme. There is no sign of one happening in Zurich.