Fifa corruption: Uefa must tell Sepp Blatter – we can boycott the World Cup and we are not afraid to do so

Talking Football: Boycotting the World Cup finals feels like boycotting Christmas, or summer holidays, or pub gardens

Sam Wallace
Tuesday 02 June 2015 07:38
Allan Hansen is proposing a very radical solution to world football’s Sepp Blatter problem
Allan Hansen is proposing a very radical solution to world football’s Sepp Blatter problem

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.

Uefa president Michel Platini

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.

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.

Allan Hansen told The Independent that democracy had not always served Fifa well

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.

Jack Wilshere, right, on Arsenal’s victory parade, where he added to his long list of indiscretions

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.

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