Another twirl on the FIFA merry-go-round

Michael Foster reacts to FIFA’s latest PR whitewash…

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Anyone else notice that Sepp Blatter is increasingly looking like Mr Burns from The Simpsons? Not only is the image striking, but he’s even acting more and more like him too. He has a desperate love of power and money, he is unmoved by the plight of his suffering employees, he doesn’t care how many people dislike him, and he has a frequent tendency to shout ‘You’re fired’ at people who cross him.

It’s the latest spin of the FIFA merry-go-round, a ride which seemingly keeps on going with the same boring predictability and sense of the inevitable. Of course FIFA weren’t going to come out and say ‘Yes you fools, it was us all along, mwa ha ha.’ It was the nature of the report’s release that raised eyebrows. It was how England got heavily criticised for fully complying with the investigation, while countries that didn’t co-operate got no criticism whatsoever. It was how all these Russian Billionaires can’t afford their own computers, so they have to rent a set with surprisingly accident prone hard drives. It was how they didn’t see fit to mention the thousands of workers trapped in Qatar building their little vanity project.

The big twist came from the man who actually ran the report for two years. Michael Garcia must have known what was coming, his response was so swift and well worded that he surely will have had an inkling as to how FIFA would try to spin his findings. Whether any good will come out of it remains to be seen, or whether all Garcia has done is put himself into the firing line.

The FA can’t be completely blameless. Spending 30,000 quid on a gala dinner is hardly Bond Villain territory, but it’s given FIFA what they needed to take the moral high ground and stick to the line that any future grumblings by England and their press are nothing more than sour grapes. Fact is rules are rules, and if they get broken then all you are doing is giving your opponents leverage against you.

Though it does seem FIFA are being selective in how they implement their own unique form of justice. £30,000 on a gala dinner equals a slap on the wrist for England, yet Qatar spending £1.8 million on a conference in Africa is somehow A-OK. The truth seems to be that the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup’s was a Wild West Frontier where there were no rules and pretty much everything was on the table. At the time FIFA seemingly couldn’t care less what was going on. But now they have to be seen to be doing something, so they’ve decided to throw England under the bus. Far more convenient then admitting they got it wrong.

But the focus has to shift away from the bidding process and onto more important matters. FIFA have clearly decided for themselves that the case is closed and Russia and Qatar’s bids are fair game. Alright then, so now we should make the main issue the appalling conditions that the migrant workers building the Qatar Stadia are kept in. The way they stick their fingers in their ears whenever the subject is brought up is amazing. Only recently when a Qatar Spokesman was asked about the conditions for the 2,800 recorded North Korean workers, he responded that they had received ‘No recorded complaints’ about their treatment. Gee whizz, wonder why?

No football tournament is worth the lives of thousands of innocent people. The World Cup is going to be in Qatar now, and we’d best get used to that fact. But we have to use the opportunity to improve the quality of life for those workers, and FIFA have to be at the vanguard of that change if they want to gain a shred of credibility back.

Are there any more crumbs of comfort we can gain from this? Well the repeated headaches these two bids have given FIFA will surely make them think twice about repeating the trick when the time comes for the next World Cup Host to be decided. We can only hope that they go with a more sensible option next time, before the integrity of international football is completely run into the ground. These tournaments should always be about the sport, not about the internal politics of those running the game.

Also there are rumblings, originating from CNN, that the FBI are now taking a keen interest in the activities of FIFA. Whether anything were to come of it or not, Blatter vs the Feds would be a battle worth seeing.

 

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