By Tony Attwood
Go back a couple of years and, while everyone who wanted to understand, fully understood the corruption that existed in Fifa, Uefa and world football, virtually no one wanted to do much about it. The height of such rebellion as there was, came with the English FA gallantly saying that they would never bid for the World Cup again while Blatter was in power.
That this was reported in the English press in all seriousness, shows how far the situation was utterly misunderstood. It really was very hard to find many places other than here where the notion that Fifa ought to be completely wound up was being put forward.
But the FA has moved and the Guardian today has the story that “the Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has predicted that such is the world governing body’s reluctance to reform that Sepp Blatter would win if he stood again.” Not exactly a cry for total reform, but another tiny step in the right direction.
And, although the notion is hardly mainstream, you do find it reported. True, I can’t find any news medium that wants to hold the executives of the FA to account for the £35m or so that was wasted on the English bid for the World Cup – money that could and should have been spent on grassroots football. Nor have I seen anywhere other than here where that waste of money has been linked to the fact that subsequently a third of the FA’s staff were made redundant. So it’s good to know our news coverage is still occasionally “untold” in other media.
However now there is movement, and while most media outlets are reporting today’s election of a new Fifa man without reference to the potential for destroying the whole rotten edifice, a few are heading in that direction, while most in England are pointing out that the front runner for election is a man as tainted as the Blatter character he replaces.
Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa is the favourite and he is the candidate who has said he will not implement the reforms to make Fifa more transparent. He’s the man Damian Collins MP accused in Parliament of taking development project funds to finance an election bid.
Among Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa’s statements is this one…
“One of the main concerns, talking to people around the globe, is about bringing down the number of the committees from 26 to nine,” he said. “I can promise you, if I am elected, that the number of committees serving in Fifa will not change – whether through commissions or task forces or whatever. I’m sure we need most of you around.”
Steady as she goes, then.
Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa has an appalling human rights record. He is a despot in his own utterly undemocratic country. He is a member of the privileged elite. And he’s who I would vote for if I had a vote, not least because he has his lawyers are sending out what I am told are “aggressive” legal communications to the main media outlets who question his human rights record. That’s the way to do it.
Given that there has been some movement in the media to recognise that the organisation they have bowed down to all these years is appalling, disgraceful, corrupt and contemptible, there is just a chance that the media will itself react with revulsion at such an election. Then, maybe, just maybe, the FA will wake up to public opinion and start to move away from its impression of a dog chasing a ball that is forever thrown away for it to bring back.
No one will vote for an end to Fifa, because there is too much arse licking still going on in the FA and elsewhere, but that is what they should be doing. And it is possible that a vote for Sheikh Salman might just cause such an annoyance that people will start to realise that Fifa cannot ever be reformed. The Sheikh will get votes from Africa and Asia – and that might be enough to get him in.
The accusations against Salman are profound. For example there are numerous reports that Bahraini footballers were tortured when pro-democracy protests were put down five years ago in some of the most repressive scenes seen beyond the realms of Islamic State and their fellow travellers.
And James Corbett of Sporting Intelligence is quoted widely as reporting that Hakeem al-Oraibi said that the security forces had “spent three hours hitting me hard on my legs, while saying, ‘We will break your bones, we will destroy your future, you will never play football again with these legs’.”
Meanwhile nine journalists and half a dozen online activists have been imprisoned in Bahrain, because the last thing the country wants is any sort of discussion of what the government is doing.
But in the face of this obvious fact, Issa Hayatou, the acting Fifa president, said just two months ago, “Fifa is not corrupt. We have individuals that have shown negative behaviour. Do not generalise the situation.”
And Hayatou is the man who was pulled up by the International Olympic Committee just five years ago for receiving payments from the corrupt marketing sub-section of Fifa, ISL.
And that is what the FA buys into. An organisation that still, today, has Hayatou as acting president and is seriously considering voting for a human rights denier who wants to roll back the tiny reforms that Fifa have so far proposed.
It seems they are still not listening to the US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch – because presumably the FA with all its excellent record of hopeless failure and financial waste knows more. There are 150 criminal cases relating to Fifa being investigated in America and Switzerland… and yet the FA and its pals want this organisation to continue!!!
So we now have the idea from Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa that Fifa presidents should never spend more than 12 years in power, presumably because that would stop corruption, and there should be more internal (not external) integrity checks (presumably because outsiders “don’t understand us.”)
So if Fifa can elect a man from a country of human rights deniers as its president that could pretty much make the case for the end of Fifa.
And then, while that is going on we could watch the International Olympic Committee explain how the new Fifa boss was using IOC offices to send out emails supporting himself – something the IOC should not be allowing to happen.
Now it might well seem to you that I’ve been rampaging around this arena for an awful long time, and Fifa is still there. But think back to the last world cup with all its coverage and bowing down to the Fifa hierarchy and the fact that the only – yes the only – response of the FA or anyone else at this time was that they would not bid again for a world cup under Blatter.
And look again at where we are now. In one sense nothing has changed in the sense that Fifa is still there, but amazingly journalists in the UK are writing pieces condemning the whole of Fifa and wanting to pull it all down. It is a change of direction.
Of course we are constantly aided by Uefa in the struggle to rid the world of Fifa by people like acting UEFA president, Angel Maria Villar Llona, who announced on the day after Michel Platini’s suspension decision,”I hope Michel will be back with us soon.” I think that told us where they are.
I hope Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa is installed soon, because that could well mean the end of Fifa once and for all. Of course people who have just lost power will always try and regain it, but for once we would have a chance to stop the insanity, and return football to where it should be: a game run by the clubs using the clubs’ players with none of this fake-country stuff getting in the way.
- The strange cases of Lord Copper, Dr Carneiro, Mr Abranomvich, and the high court judge.
- More evidence that transfers and large squads are not the route to success
The Untold Books
The latest Untold book is Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 with a Foreword by Bob Wilson, available both as a paperback and as a Kindle book from Amazon. Details of this and our previous and forthcoming titles can be found at Arsenal Books on this site.
From the Anniversaries file on the home page
26 February 2012: Rosicky scored his first goal in two years to mark his comeback as Arsenal beat Tottenham 5-2. Tottenham went 2-0 with goals from Saha and Adebayor. Sagna and RVP brought it level at half time. Rosicky got his and Walcott got two. There were six bookings and a red card for Parker.
26 February 2013: Bob Wilson was quoted as calling Stewart Robson “bitter” over his remorseless criticism of Arsène Wenger
And elsewhere (just so we remember)…
26 February 1935: Radar was demonstrated for the first time in a field in Northamptonshire by Robert Watson-Watt. Despite giving Britain the weapon that would contribute massively to winning the war in Europe he was treated appallingly by the War Office and British establishment, largely because he went to the wrong school. There is however now a small sign opposite the field, to commemorate his brilliance and perseverance.