Leading article: The old regime lives to fight another day

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The Independent Online

It's been a bizarre couple of days. One evening the world is watching an exemplary Champions League final at Wembley, after which there is universal agreement that the better team won – probably, indeed, the most gifted and accomplished team to have competed for very many years. The very next day, you have an ethics hearing at the governing body of world football, Fifa, which finds that two senior officials have a case to answer over bribery allegations and announces a full-scale inquiry.

Sometime in between, one of those two senior officials, Mohamed Bin Hammam, posts a statement on his blog, saying that he is withdrawing from the election for the Fifa presidency and insisting that this has nothing whatever to do with the next day's ethics hearing and everything to do with saving the association's good name.

The ethics committee meanwhile exonerates several other officials without qualification, chief among them the incumbent President of Fifa, Sepp Blatter, who is cleared to stand for re-election on Wednesday. Any suggestion that the election might be postponed until after the full inquiry has reported is flicked away as an impertinence. After all, Mr Bin Hammam has withdrawn; Mr Blatter is whiter than white, so where could there possibly be a problem?

To any even half-informed observer, at least part of any problem that Fifa might have is that air of complacency. Having, at the age of 75, been preparing to cruise effortlessly to a fourth term, Mr Blatter is about to do just that, having seen off the small inconvenience of Mr Bin Hammam's candidacy. Only Mr Bin Hammam and the Fifa Vice-President, Jack Warner, remain under a cloud. Everyone else is off the hook. Even the officials fronting the press conference that announced all this came across as embarrassed.

Rightly or wrongly, the impression is left of a one-man show, frozen in time, which has even less incentive to change than it did before yesterday's hearing. If Mr Blatter is serious about using what he says will be his last term to introduce overdue reforms, this was hardly a convincing way to start.