By Tony Attwood
Infantino’s speech the day before the world cup starts was clearly aimed at deflecting attention from what is happening to world football. And listening to TalkSport radio this lunchtime it is clear it has been a huge success. For they spent the time debating Infantino’s comments about him having been bullied at school, rather than considering the dramatic fight for power that is going on within football. The Qataris must be rubbing their hands in glee.
We recently ran the story, Slowly the media wakes up to the notion that Uefa is being run by one family. And there is still some hope that the media will ultimately see what is going on when the very future of Uefa is resolved next month in the courts, as the EU rules on whether having a single entity running the whole of European football is outside EU laws.
But there is a second challenge on the horizon with Manchester City and Newcastle United now being state-run clubs. It is a reasonable question as to how long Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham, (and indeed even Chelsea who were a quasi-state run club until Russia invaded Ukraine) can match the state-financed clubs.
The one bit of hope we have however comes from the fact that there are three states involved, and they don’t like each other.
This has been brought home to everyone recently with the behaviour of Qatar showing that it doesn’t give a toss for Fifa, contracts, agreements, or anything else. Alcohol is available. Ooops, no it isn’t. Fifa’s wonderful new hotels for its fatcats are ready – ooops no they aren’t. Who knows what’s next? Infantino is welcome to stay in Qatar for as long as he likes in order to escape Swiss justice – ooops no he isn’t.
The warning signs have been out there for a long time. Indeed our article How Infantino fixed FFP on behalf of PSG and Man City set the scene. But also in the story is the concept, widely reported in Europe but not England, that the owners of Manchester City have been threatening to take Uefa down by suing them through every court across Europe
If you have been reading our reports of late you will know the sort of thing going on. If not you might care to take a look at PSG accused of creating fake accounts to denigrate journalists and players.
And then again, How Uefa and PSG have taken control and fooled all of football. Or if you want more, La Liga complains to Uefa alleging Manchester City and PSG breached FFP. And again PSG & BEIN BOSS escapes imprisonment,
Now the simplest way of pulling all this together is simply to say, Qatar doesn’t care about Fifa, and football has become the plaything of a few mega-powerful states.
Indeed we saw this with the battle between Saudi Arabia (which funds Newcastle United) and the United Arab Emirates (which funds Manchester City) over the broadcasting fight between beIN and beout TV channels.
What we can now add to the mix, having seen how Qatar behaved in the run-up to the World Cup and Infantino’s deflectionary speech, is that Qatar does not care about Fifa, it cares about its own view of the world and the regional fights in which it is engaged.
And in case you missed it, here’s a bit of history.
On 5 June 2017, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates severed all links with Qatar over Qatar’s “embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region”. The first thawing of relationships only began on 14 February 2021, and whatever Qatar does now must be seen as part of its muscle-flexing to show the rest of the Arab world that Qatar should not be taken for granted.
From this perspective it is clear that Qatar doesn’t give a toss about Fifa – it is using football to continue to establish its powerbase in its region. Football is just a tiny pawn in the game.
But this fight is undermining Fifa’s credibility because Qatar sees Fifa as a minnow in terms of power (as it is when compared with the likes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE).
Fifa of course is nothing if not full of its own self-importance and pomp, but when the likes of Qatar see it as an irrelevance that can be bought and then ignored, Fifa will suddenly find it doesn’t have any funds. Indeed it is hard to get definitive information on just how much Qatar owes Fifa, but it is mega millions of dollars.
Thus Infantino is not so much hiding from the Swiss authorities (whose enquiry into the illegal meetings between Infantino and Michael Lauber, the Swiss attorney general, is ongoing) as being used as a pawn in a massive middle east power game.
Indeed the real power in football has shifted to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE who are having a private punch-up of their own in which international football is nothing more than a way of having a fight without actually dropping bombs on each other.
Fifa’s only way out of this is to take Infantino’s escape from the Swiss courts in moving to Qatar as an excuse to make Qatar the permanent base of football, regularly holding the world cup in the city-state out of the way of western law enforcement agencies.
Fifa thus becomes a province of Qatar just as Infantino the head of Fifa is a puppet of Qatar. Western supporters are no longer needed and the whole thing is just a TV show promoting the Arab and Muslim worldview.
Eventually, Infantino will be seen as yesterday’s puppet and thrown to the wolves, and European football will realise it has been conned. But… by then the middle east power masters will not only own Manchester City, Newcastle United, PSG, Everton, Hull City, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United as they do now , but they will most surely have picked up a few more PL clubs. Indeed four more PL clubs, and they’ll hold the balance of power in the Premier League. Five more and they can do absolutely anything they like.
And for Arsenal there is the fear, with Emirates Airlines powering the finances, that one day Kroenke might just have had enough, and if so, we know who will buy the club. Our club will become part of the Arabian proxy-war package.
Of course in the end, Infantino will be extradited to Switzerland, once he is not deemed necessary anymore so at least we will have the satisfaction of that odious fellow getting his comeuppance. But I am not sure that really compensates for the total loss of football as we know it.
In the new world the World Cup won’t be an irritating interruption to league football. League football will be a sideshow to keep the fans in order in between each annual World Cup festival.
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