By Tony Attwood
Speaking in Parliament, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said, “I do agree with my honourable friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), who has just conducted a review on the matter, that we should indeed have an independent regulator for football.”
As a result of this those of us resident in England are being asked to contact our MPs to show their backing for a “Fan-led Review” by writing to Nadine Dorries, the secretary of state for the Department of Culture Media and Sport with a request that legislation supporting the full implementation of the Fan-led Review to be in the next Queen’s Speech.
Which is interesting given that Fifa’s regulations specifically prohibit the interference in football by government or other non-footballing bodies.
Which is not to say that Untold is against a review of football in England – indeed if you have dipped into our articles Why are so many sports administrators corrupt or incompetent or both? and Wholesale mega corruption in football (part 2) you’ll see that we are not at all happy with the way football is run.
Indeed if you want some extra reading you might consider this three parter…
- Sweet FA. A history of the idiocy and incompetence in football administration
- The FA scandals part 2: The minister says reform or we close you
- The FA scandals part 3: hiding racism and appointing idiots
But there is something else that we have not touched upon that is every bit as worrying as the decision by the head of Fifa (who is under investigation in Switzerland for criminal activities) to up sticks and move to Qatar where he can’t be touched.
This comes with an area of activity in which Fifa is prosecutor, judge, jury, prison officer and the release committee. In short, the way the system works now is such that if Fifa finds that one of its members is not following the rules, Fifa imposes sanctions, tells the member country what to do, and then is the judge and jury that decides if the country has done enough to be allowed back in.
The fact that this approach (which gives Fifa more power than even national governments have) exists at all is bizarre in itself, that it is accepted and never questioned by the media is weird, and that it is Fifa (the prosecutor and judge which determines if the country that has fallen foul of its rules) that then determines if country can be readmitted to the world of football.
Throw in the fact that there are endless cases suggesting and often proving corruption, and that Fifa’s head (Infantino) is under investigation for having highly dubious undocumented meetings with the head of the Swiss legal services, shows how wild and whacky this whole situation is.
At the heart of the affair as what are known by the sinister name “The Normalisation Committees”. If such bodies had turned up in Orwell’s “1984” we would not have been surprised.
Fifa can suspend members that it doesn’t like, from world football. Russia has recently been suspended for reasons we can all understand. But so are Kenya and Zimbabwe. So, recently have been Greece, Argentina, Thailand, Egypt… the list goes on.
At the heart of the suspensions is the notion that, “Every person and organisation involved in the game of football is obliged to observe the Statutes and regulations of Fifa as well as the principles of fair play” which is notable when we remember how many senior executives of Fifa have been arrested, and the charges recently made against Infantino.
Laughably, a member can be suspended for not being able to show “good governance” – something that Fifa has not been able to show about itself for years. Likewise it is bizarre that a country can be suspended because of the interference with footballing matters by the government – while Infantino is accused of the reverse – interference with government matters by Fifa, and while Boris is asking for exactly this – government interference.
Now the point in all this is that, as the excellent Law in Sport article on this issue points out, football associations have to abide by “the Statutes, regulations and decisions of Fifa” and if they don’t the body that investigates is… Fifa. The Normalisation Committee that then sets the world to rights can and often does include members of Fifa and most certainly have to be approved by Fifa. Although again as the Law in Sport piece on this says, “a direct violation of the Fifa Code of Ethics is no prerequisite to a person not passing the integrity check.”
This is all so bonkers and bizarre there will be more in the next article.