“Machiavelli would be out of his depth at Fifa”

When I very occasionally (or so I tell my girlfriend) watch WWE wrestling, it is not uncommon to see oily, overweight men trying to incite a hostile crowd into ever greater levels of hate and revulsion. I am yet to see in the wrestling ring a performance so convincing, so believable, as Sepp Blatter’s in his Monday evening press conference. Clunking opening analogy out of the way, time to be serious for once. Fifa is in chaos, and its President is doing his best to make it worse.

He answered the assembled journalist’s questions as only he quite knows how – with arrogance, contempt and an entirely unwarranted sense of superiority. It did not go down well; not only was he ushered off the stage amid understandably vitriolic demands from the floor, but the Twitter feed, [@ChangeFIFA](http://twitter.com/#!/changefifa), gained thousands of followers in the ensuing hours. It seems Fifa’s corruption and deceit might finally be catching up with it.

Before I turn to the details, we need to note a peculiar and important characteristic of football fans. As a breed, they are fiercely loyal – to their club, to their country, and to their sport. Indeed football fans are devoted to a whole host of seemingly mutually compromising causes. Let me explain. A football fan usually hates his or her club’s local rival a lot – that’s why Manchester United fans hate Manchester City fans.

Simple enough, right? But, when those teams aren’t in direct competition, both are flying the flag for the Manchester, and everyone from Manchester hates everyone from Liverpool. Then, when the competition is raised yet higher, to a national level – say the World Cup – all those fans, United, City, Liverpool and everyone else, join together as one boozy and eventually disappointed family. Like the Barrymores.

The highest logical level to which this loyalty goes is as a defence of the sport as a whole – usually against other sports, but occasionally against someone or something that might threaten football’s integrity. Sepp Blatter, therefore, by uniting the whole world against an aging, German-speaking bureaucrat has achieved what only Joachim von Ribbentrop had previously managed. Now I’m not saying Blatter is _as_ bad as the Nazi foreign minister, but I will remind you that Ribbentrop did hang for his crimes. As I say, just a reminder.

So what has Blatter done that is so reprehensible? Well, M’Lord, consider the following a charge sheet:

•Accused directly of offering African Football’s Vice-President Farra Ado $100,000 to vote for him during his 1998 Presidential election;

•Accused by his former deputy, Michel Zen-Ruffinen, of allowing the loss of over $100m through the collapse of marketing partners. Ruffinen was sacked shortly after;

•Angered feminists, and amused everyone else, by saying female footballers should wear low-cut tops and tighter shorts in 2004. We’ll let him off that one;

•Consistently refused widespread calls for the use of goal-line technology;

•In 2010, awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia, and astonishingly the 2022 World Cup to Qatar – a nation of just 1.6 million people, whose summers regularly reach over 40 degrees Celsius, whose government is utterly intolerant of homosexuality, and where it is illegal to be drunk. Oh, and who have never qualified for a World Cup, and whose abject failure has never really bothered them.

The prosecution rests, M’Lord.

On Wednesday Fifa held a Presidential election whilst the Vice-President (Jack Warner), the current President, and the only other candidate (_editor’s note: Mohamed Bin Hammam – who withdrew before the election, meaning Blatter’s name was the only one on the ballot in this ‘democratic’ election_), were all under allegations of corruption. This scenario, as absurd as it may seem, came as little surprise when you consider Blatter’s previous efforts at the helm.

It is a sad reflection on the organisation, that when Lord Triesman levelled accusations of bribery, the only shock registered was from those wondering what that Nick off The Apprentice was doing hanging around the FA. Of course that might be because Lord Triesman has been crying wolf ever since it became clear England were unlikely to win the right to host the 2018 World Cup, but more likely it’s because Fifa’s moral and financial dishonesty is rivalled only by a handful of African leaders, the EU, and Fidel Castro.

It ought to have been a proud moment for Englishmen – to see the FA as the good guys, leading the charge against the corrupt and unaccountable bureaucrats (Nigel Farrage should get in on this) – but the timing and nature of the action we have taken has been characteristically sloppy (_editor’s note: Indeed the English FA’s brief rebellion was crushed as Blatter was unsurprisingly re-elected by the ‘Fifa family’ with 186 votes from the 203 cast, with 17 abstentions – although it is worth pointing out that in Fifa, 1 vote would beat 202 abstentions_).

It is to our eternal shame that we failed to act during the World Cup bidding process, and announced that we wished to delay the election in order to put forward a reasonable reforming candidate, the day before it happened. Indeed I have no doubt whatsoever, that if the 2018 World Cup was being held in England, Triesman would have kept very quiet. That should be as damning to the FA as the bribery is to Fifa. Even the good guys in this story are utter pricks.

There is one ray of light, however. Coca Cola, Fly Emirates, and Adidas – three of Fifa’s major sponsors – have all registered their disappointment with the controversy within the organisation. If there’s one thing we know about Blatter and his colleagues, it’s that money speaks. The best football fans can hope for at the moment is that these companies start exerting financial pressure on the organisation, and don’t stop until real reform has begun.

So there you have it, in order to bring down an organisation whose practice methods and ethics are extremely dubious, pin your hopes on some companies whose own ethics and methods are extremely questionable themselves. Hmm . As I said, even the good guys in this story are pricks.

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