Soccer is the worlds most played sport. It began in England in 1863, it’s name derived from the first governing body which was ‘Association football’, in those days an –er was added to names, turning Rugby into rugger and association football into ‘Asoccer‘ later shortened to soccer… But soccer no longer belongs to England. It has been sold out and stolen long ago.
At the head of soccer today is the highly unpopular FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), who at the time of writing have got nine officials on corruption charges from the FBI. FIFA the governing body set up in 1904 to act as an intermediate between national football associations (amazingly England, creators of the game, were not included in this original foundation). This Friday, May 29th will see the presidential elections STILL go ahead despite FBI investigations and SWISS proceedings against the now infamous organisation. Luis Figo, A former world player of the year, coveted player and runner for the office recently withdrew his candidacy citing it as ‘anything but an election’ and ‘This process is a plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man – something I refuse to go along with’.
That one man is Sepp Blatter, the man widely tipped to get a fifth term in power, despite having no agenda, refusing to publicly debate prior to election and a man who in court said he was aware of bribes to former executive committee members in the past. From seven candidates we are now left with two, Sepp Blatter and Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussien.
From top to bottom FIFA can be ridiculed. As they are registered as a charity it means they can pay lower taxes in Switzerland, yet reportedly have over $1.3 billion in cash reserves in the bank (2013). Last year the organisation gave out watches to 65 committee members that were worth £16,000 each, ($24,500 US) begging the question – what sort of charity does this? They later asked for the watches back after it was brought to their internal ethics committee – this has since been dubbed watch-gate.
It’s clear that FIFA needs change, Qatar being awarded the world cup for 2022 being the most prime example that has had the football world and the Swiss courts questioning FIFA. FIFA’s own technical assessment committee rated Qatar as high risk due to it’s intense summer heat and it was acknowledged that it wasn’t the strongest bid for 2022. A rival to the Qatar bid was Australia, a senator for them Nick Xenophon accused FIFA of scamming them out of $49 million (US) which they spent on their bid stating “until the investigation into FIFA has been completed, Australia must hold off spending any more taxpayers’ money on any future World Cup bids”.
To date Qatar has been linked to terrible working conditions in the relation to construction of stadiums, including many deaths. It’s been acknowledged that the temperature is way too hot for a summer tournament and the proposed idea of moving the tournament to winter would mess up the European football calendar. With Budweiser being a major sponsor of FIFA hurdles will have to be overcame given Qatar does not allow alcohol in grounds. Their stance on homosexuality not being allowed is pre dated and the simple size of the state will be an issue given the amount of fans that travel to the prestigious world cup.
The website New FIFA Now highlights many mishaps at FIFA it’s arguments are solid towards a new FIFA, highlighting the plight of Qatars working conditions. But in my opinion, is FIFA not somewhat a Lernaean Hydra scenario, we could take one head down but two may grow back – a seeming culture ingrained in controversy with endless rescources pointing at corruption. Maybe reform is not what is needed, but an alternative. Gary Lineker of the BBC says what I think It’s time we boycotted FIFA.
Football could take the lead from other sports who have more then one association? MMA has UFC and M1 global, Boxing has WBA, IBF and WBO. It seems like it could be achieved, given that the English, Dutch and German FA have given their backing to Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussien who is the only challenger to Sepp Blatter. If these nations left FIFA and set up their own tournaments surely others would follow. The fact Germany won the world cup, the fact England has the most lucrative domestic league in the world and the Dutch created total football, others would surely follow. It turns out, I’m not alone in thinking this, FIFA Think Again have stated many good points of argument as to why an alternative should be set up. In doing so they have created an alternative called DEFA (Democratic football association) which at present needs support.
Other organisations do exist, the NF board for example organise tournaments for nations that are not recognised as sovereign states, therefore unable to qualify under FIFA’s eligibility. Teams from Occitania, Sapmi and Iraqi Kurdistan are examples operating outside of FIFA. At the last VIVA world cup organised by the NF board Iraqi Kurdistan who are sponsored by Nike won said cup in front of 22,000 fans!
If Blatter is elected on Friday, should we continue to put up with FIFA or, search for alternatives. Soccer is known as the peoples game, is it time for the people to take it back?