Champagne On Ice

September 25, 2014 at 10:39 am 1 comment

If football wants to be taken seriously again it is definitely time for change at the top. Sepp Blatter’s continual inappropriate comments and unwillingness for transparency in FIFA can no longer be tolerated, as it is holding the game back. He has thus far withstood calls from outside of the walls of power to be open and honest with the game’s governing bodies dealings but now pressure is mounting from within.

It is believed that FIFA is under huge pressure from within to allow its investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to be published on Wednesday.  Chief investigator Michael Garcia and members of FIFA’s own executive committee broke ranks this week over plans to bury the report.

Michael Garcia as the the head of the investigatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee, along with its British vice-president, Jim Boyce, and Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan has called for his 350-page report on alleged corruption during the bid process to be made public.

It is believed that Garcia wants an altered copy of his report made public, removing the names of whistleblowers and other sensitive information.

The comments of Prince Ali bin Al Hussein will be music to the ears of many, FIFA’s Asian vice-president, whose region happens to include Qatar, posted on Twitter: “In the interest of full transparency, I believe it is important that the much-anticipated report on the ethics investigation that is crucial to ensuring good governance at FIFA is fully disclosed and open to the public.This will only help the football community move ahead in reforming our institutions in the best interest of the sport. The entire football family as well as its sponsors and those who follow the game worldwide have a full right to know the contents of the report in the spirit of complete openness.”

Hopefully he will look to enforce the same standards throughout Asia.

His colleague Jim Boyce is quoted in the Daily Telegraph newspaper as saying : “If people have nothing to fear, they should not worry about information being published.”

Boyce and Prince Ali, who both joined FIFA’s executive committee after the controversial 2010 vote do not have everyone onside, and are expected face a wave of internal opposition from colleagues who were there in 2010, and remain on the Executive Committee that voted for Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Some of these representatives tried and failed to shut down Garcia’s report.

The report which is said to include 200,000 pages of evidence, was submitted to FIFA almost three weeks ago. FIFA’s chief judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, explained in the Daily Telegraph that “It is likely that at the beginning of November, we will be able to give the first public statement of our position with regard to this general report. Our primary task for now is to examine whether the investigatory chamber has followed all the correct procedures and whether, in our assessment, more detailed information is required in certain areas. However, it is up to the investigatory chamber, under the chairmanship of Michael Garcia, to decide whether – and if so against whom – specific ethics proceedings should be opened.”

Despite initially wanting the report to stay “in-house,” FIFA President Blatter has been remarkably quiet in the past few days. Then again it may be for the best after he announced at the start of the month that he intended to run for a fifth term as President. The reason he said was because “my mission is not finished.” With the bad publicity he has brought the game one wonders how much more he can bring.

The secret ballot for the head position is scheduled for 29 May 2015 in Zurich and at the present time former FIFA international relations director Jerome Champagne is the only other person to say he will stand. UEFA president Michel Platini opting not to run.

Blatter has butted heads with the English FA, and there is no doubt that Champagne will receive their vote. With UEFA giving Wembley the final stages of the 2020 European Championships they are bound to be more disposed to voting for a fellow European.

The saddest thing is that Blatter will not acknowledge that after 16 years at the helm the organisation would benefit from a new leader and a fresh approach. He is banking on support from South America and Africa to see him over the line, the two Confederations that broke Europe’s domination in the role when Blatter’s mentor Joao Havelange replaced Sir Stanley Rous as FIFA President in 1974. Although many believe that Blatter faith in the support of these nations is misplaced. However money talks.

Blatter is seen in Africa and other poorer parts of the football world as a generous patron. Like Havelange did, he too issues huge handouts from the World Cup profits to every national association. This money, $750,000,  which is supposed to be “for football development”is the lifeblood to many of the poorer nations and is the only reason they are able to continue to be one of the 209 member nations of FIFA. In addition to these hand outs, FIFA under Blatter also came up with the “Goal” project which enables them to dispense even more cash on an as-needed basis to developing countries; Australia deemed a developing nation having just received $500,000 under this very project. Will this mean Australia will now be expected to support Mr Blatter?

Ever since he was installed as Havelange’s lieutenant, FIFA has been Blatter’s life, and he has enjoyed the benefits to the full. He is sadly like many men in their twilight years, unwilling or unable to give up power.

Champagne is 23 years Blatter’s junior aged 56, as he says “the next ten years will be crucial for football and particularly for FIFA which is at a crossroads and in need of sweeping changes.” The same could apply to Australian football where the leader of the game is in fact four years older than Blatter.

Champagne has all the credentials to be the man who would be president. He served in the French embassies or consulates in Cuba, California, Oman and Brazil before joining FIFA for the 1998 World Cup in France.

He then became an ambassador, or as some have said, a diplomatic adviser to Blatter, and worked in a variety of roles, including director of international relations for FIFA.

In 2010 Blatter removed him. Those inside FIFA circles maintain that Blatter believed that Champagne was building aspirations to succeed him. Maybe his fears have now been realised.

Blatter continues to say that he is the best man to cleanse FIFA of any corruption is himself. He is able to keep making such a claim as thus far has not been personally implicated in any wrongdoing. There is no doubt he is tainted by the fact that he has been leader during the time that most of the corruption has occurred, but his view is, innocent until proven guilty.

Champagne may talk the talk, he may even be the best candidate, but Blatter will not be easy to dislodge as the solid bloc of support that Havelange, and subsequently he has received for four decades from the 50-plus African nations, who are likely to remain loyal. Blatter has already started campaigning in the region knowing this to be the case.

As for Asia and the Americas these confederations can be divided with their votes. Even Europe who one would expect to be united are unlikely to vote as one in the FIFA election as some of the smaller nations feel they are ‘bullied’ by the more established football nations in UEFA.

The way Blatter and the Executive Committee handle Garcia’s report and the decisions they make on Qatar’s hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup could in fact be the issues on which the whole Presidential election hinges. So until that time Champagne will have to wait.


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. All White  |  September 25, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Blatter has to go even blind Freddy can see that. However as you state the corruption is so engrained he will probably live to fight another day, and as they did last time Australia will vote for him. Interesting comparison between him and Mr Lowy. More alike than many realise I would say. Time for him t go too.

    No one in football should be allowed to go beyond 80!


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