On this week’s episode of The Rail, Eli, Spencer Owen and sports journalist Jonathan Wilson talk about FIFA. With the first-round World Cup qualifiers for 2018 complete, the World Cup will now inevitably take place in Russia. Furthermore, due to the FIFA arrests and Sepp Blatter’s subsequent resignation, FIFA finds itself at a crucial crossroad. In recent weeks, people have been putting their names into the hat to become the next president; few of which are more prominent than UEFA president Michel Platini.
The Qatar World Cup is set for the winter of 2022, and little seems to have been done so far to improve the working conditions of migrant labourers. As the Emergency Congress prepares to meet before electing a new President in November, there is no telling what the future has in store for football’s world governing body.
We sat down with Copa Collective member and the Editor and Chief of When Saturday Comes Magazine, Andy Lyons, to get his take on the situation…
In the simplest terms, what caused the current crisis in FIFA?
Essentially, Blatter and his cronies were out of control. There is a total lack of good governance in FIFA, and what people had suggested as meaningful reform like ‘term limits’ and transparency on money have never been applied. So it was a stagnation and a corruption that became integral to the way the organisation was and is run.
Do you think Blatter is particularly to blame?
As the head of the organisation, he himself has said that he cannot be expected to know everything that is going on. But he has certainly turned a blind eye to what many of his peers have been doing. He cannot present himself as the father of football and turn around the next second to say that he can’t be expected to know what is going on within his own family, so to speak.
How do you feel about Platini’s potential bid?
Platini says that he has the support of four confederations already, which is a majority. Even if some don’t vote for him, I think Blatter will choose someone who has not yet declared to be his preferred candidate, and I imagine that will likely be someone from Africa.
What do you think about the fact that the World Cup in Russia seems inevitable?
The talk about the Russian bid is a controversy, but they are at least a plausible country to host the World Cup. Obviously Russia is tied into global power politics, so in the build up to the cup there will be loads of stuff in western European and US media where they look for negative stories and they will find them. But you could easily find similar stories to this in other countries, so football in that case is being used as a tool for global power politics. Having said that, Russia was a relatively reasonable choice.
I think that the political controversies have always taken away from the competitions anyway. Think back to Argentina in 1978. There is no way of avoiding this stuff. Obviously Russia, China, and Iran will always be leaders in their region, and the World Cup is inevitably part of that process.
What are the chances of the 2022 World Cup being in Qatar?
Although Platini will likely win and he voted in favour of the Qatar bid, I think that there will be momentum that goes against Qatar. Of course the Qatari’s will use the world’s most expensive lawyers to fight this, but I think that there is plenty of time to re-organise it. At the moment I would say that the greater likelihood is that it won’t be in Qatar.