By Tony Attwood
Football has for many years made a virtue of the simplicity of its rules. Even the notorious off-side rule, which in days of yore was noted as the reason for not having women referees (the sexist argument being they could not understand something that complex) is still actually very simple and can be reduced to a line of text.
But now that seems to have gone, with the establishment of a new notion: that Fifa can create new rules as and when it wants. And not only that, Fifa can evolve any punishment it wants to fit any perceived breaking of whatever rule it has just invented. Someone wears an arm band that is not liked? Fine the player, ban him for life, ban the manager for life, ban the country for 20 years… there’s no limit, because Fifa controls the rule book.
I’m writing of course in relation to the wearing of the OneLove pro-diversity armband. The European countries felt they couldn’t risk having a whole team wearing these because that would mean they could all get yellow cards. Fifa has laid down a new rule, and won, once again. All power to the mighty Fifa. Forever and ever.
And it wasn’t just a case of England bending the knee to the appalling Fifa. As the Guardian puts it in an article, “those close to the process left with the impression that “Fifa could do anything” to any captain who wore the armband in Qatar.”
They also note that the German football federation described Fifa’s behaviour as “extreme blackmail,” which is encouraging because when a country feels that, there is a greater chance that later in the day, (or year, in this case) someone from England, Wales, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany or Denmark, might actually say, “Fifa is out of control.”
And indeed “out of control” is the right phrase given that the countries involved were faced with “unlimited liability” if they had defied Fifa’s warnings.
But the point is that this was not one nation getting worried about Fifa as has happened before. Norway expressed their open horror at Qatar using the world cup as it has done, with the blessing of Fifa’s corruption laden high command. However Norway is one country, and indeed a country that generally does not qualify for competitions.
Now, with a group of countries outraged by the disgraceful behaviour of Fifa there is a chance that action might be taken and Fifa might be brought back under the control of the countries it is supposed to represent.
The downside is that the next world cup is in North America, where, (leaving aside the possibility of a Trump-driven government) worries about the lack of democracy do not normally surface.
But we should not forget that power does reside with the western countries for without them, the world cup loses its point. And if the west European and American nations turned their back on the anti-democratic world as represented by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the like, the World Cup would look and feel like a leftover, and an irrelevance.
However, things have become so bad (Wales fans for example have had to beg and barter in order to be allowed to take rainbow-coloured clothes and flags to an Iran match) that really one wonders when anyone will ever stand up to the gangs running the system in which new rules are instituted arbitrarily.
As things stand, Fifa has gained total control over the game, and indeed will claim that this is right – they are the governing body. But the democratic countries that enter the Fifa competitions, also know that the countries are the life and blood of football.
If the western countries told Fifa it had gone too far and demanded their removal of whatever newly created rules they come up with by the time of the next tournament, then Fifa could comply or resist. If it resisted the democracies could, as one, pull out and hold their own competition. Fifa could then go its own way, creating its own rules as it goes along, taking whatever money it wanted. How would the democratic countries lose?
As far as I can see, they wouldn’t. In fact they would probably rise up stronger than ever since they would not only play the best football, they would also, without Fifa, and hopefully without Uefa, occupy the mainstream.
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