The inevitable happened and Sepp Blatter was voted in for a fifth term as FIFA’s president. This is not good news, regardless of whether Blatter is guilty of nothing more than incompetence. Why? First of all, no healthy organisation of any kind can afford to have static leadership for such a long period. It may have been alright in the distant past – Jules Rimet was president for 33 years and Joao Havelange for 24, but in today’s fast-moving world, change is constant and, in the case of football, much depends on the corporate world attaching itself to FIFA.
Some might say that longevity has its benefits – Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, for example, but a measured response to that would be around the problems of succession. Just ask David Moyes.
Creativity and dynamism are not infinite qualities in a human being. Like parenting, which by nature’s laws, belongs to the young, the creative force in man is also the product of a “golden age”. Blatter, at 79, does not represent the future of FIFA, or the game of football, although there can be no denying the breadth of experience he has. The fact there were so few contenders suggested that nobody wants the job because of the graveyard full of skeletons in the Zurich cupboards.
Blatter may be delighted that he has been voted in for a fifth term, but his credibility has been shot. He continually pleads he could not monitor everyone within the FIFA network, but although he may not have been responsible, he cannot dodge the accountability bullet. Why should FIFA be any different to the many, many clubs that fire their manager for the performance of the team?
If Blatter was a brave man, he would set about dismantling FIFA, something critics like Brian Glanville have advocated down the years. He should also be looking to groom a successor. If he doesn’t take radical action to repair or reform a tarnished organisation – and let’s be frank, nobody is at all surprised – he could face collaborative action from Europe that will bring FIFA to its knees.
There is talk of UEFA pulling its countries out of the World Cup 2018 in Russia. Too much attention has been placed on exposing Qatar’s selection as 2022 when Russia’s appointment is equally debatable. If Michel Platini does lead a UEFA exodus, the ramifications could be tricky. Russia’s World Cup would be devalued – which could also guarantee a home nation victory – and this would upset Vladimir Putin, who is probably Blatter’s only friend at the moment. The relationship between the West and Russia is arguably at its lowest ebb in years and a European boycott would further deteriorate links and become a huge political football. That may be too much for someone like Blatter to deal with.
Then he has to solve the Qatar problem. This will just not go away, right up until the first sun-baked ball is kicked. Given the scandal around Qatar’s appointment, if their football authorities have any self-respect, they will stand down now. In fact, so should Russia, too.
Blatter has his work cut out – and there’s still the growing pressure from FIFA’s army of corporate backers to contend with. Only through presiding over drastic measures will he be allowed to ride off into the sunset with his reputation restored.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride for someone who will be 80 years of age next year.