Before the election, Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein told the New York Times: “We don’t want an executive president. We want to get to a day when people don’t even know who the president of FIFA is. When that happens, we will know that the organisation is being run the right way and with the right priorities.”
A noble ambition. However, following today’s election, we are still acutely aware of who FIFA’s president is. It is still Sepp Blatter.
Following a string of corruption allegations and indictments that would have left any publicly accountable candidate utterly unelectable, the 79-year old Swiss national has risen from the ashes to rule over football’s governing body once again. But what does this mean for football, the once simple sport that has become increasingly complicated?
Before the election, Michael Platini – the President of UEFA – said that Blatter’s victory would initiate “the discussion of [Europe’s] future relations with FIFA. A very, very big majority of UEFA associations will vote for Prince Ali” – and Platini was not alone in his rejection of the elected leader.
David Gill, vice-chairman of the English FA, stated on Thursday that he would step down from his role as vice-president of FIFA if Blatter was re-elected. Similar battle lines were drawn by Greg Dyke, one of Blatter’s most vocal opponents, who called for England to boycott the Russian 2018 World Cup if he were to be re-elected.
If FIFA are to lose Europe, they will have lost not only the source of the last 3 World Cup winners (and 11 of the 20 since its inception) but without a doubt the most desirable commercial component of its World Cup product. Without Europe, the world’s biggest football tournament would die.
Platini and UEFA as a whole therefore hold incredible power. However, it is more fractured than it would seem. Russia will never walk away from its own World Cup, and undeniably Putin has retained allies in Eastern Europe who would resist any boycott.
Undeniably, however, the tide is turning. FIFA is quickly drowning in what is still the very early stages of a scandal that has the potential to consume it entirely: those indicted are yet to rat out their fellows, and when they do, it could quickly become a sinking ship.
Blatter’s renewal of power may in fact only serve to innervate the disparate resistance to the sad and tired old model of FIFA, opening the door to a more transparent, more heavily scrutinised, and ultimately more egalitarian world footballing government.