• Who will be in charge of football later this year?

    The Rivals

    There was surprise recently when Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan announced he would stand as an opponent to incumbent Sepp Blatter at the FIFA congress on 29 May in Zurich. Blatter originally declared in 2011 that he would not be standing for re-election this year, partly on the grounds of his age (he will be 79 at the date of the vote).

    The History

    Blatter has held the role since 1998, and has been re-elected three times since then. FIFA's reputation has been sullied in relation to claims of financial irregularities and the nature of the awarding of the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. Blatter has a history of statements that have provoked much debate since taking the role.

    The Vote

    FIFA currently has 209 members, and whoever wins the presidential race will have to have the backing of 105 delegates at the FIFA Congress.

    Federation Area Represented Delegates
    CAF Africa 54
    UEFA Europe 52
    AFC Asia 46
    CONCACAF North/Central America 41
    OFC Oceania 11
    CONMEBOL South America 11
    Total 209

    The candidates

    Blatter is the strong favourite in my view. FIFA delegates tend to operate with a herd mentality, and therefore it is essential to get the support of regional blocks of votes rather than individual football associations. 133 countries who vote for the FIFA president have never appeared in a World Cup final tournament, and here Blatter's experience in keeping the delegates from these countries happy could well be crucial.

    Blatter has close allies in the likes of Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait, who is head of the Olympic Council of Asia, and is likely to carry the support of most of the 46 Asian Football Confederation countries. Similarly Blatter is held in high regard in Africa, which has 54 members. If he can take both these blocs then he is almost certain to win the election.

    Prince Ali is most likely to have support from European countries, partly due to his friendship with UEFA president Michel Platini, but also due to those countries being most unhappy with the recent revelations in respect of allegations of impropriety made before, during and after the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals.

    The investigation into the allegations of impropriety, undertaken by American lawyer Michael Garcia, has been dogged by accusation and counter accusation, culminating in Garcia resigning his position.

    Why is Blatter so popular?

    Blatter's power base has arisen for the following reasons:

    (a) Distribution of monies:

    The 2014 World Cup tournament in Brazil was a financial success for FIFA, which generated over $2 billion from the event. Of this sum, less than 30% ($576 million) went to the participating teams and the clubs they play for. This allowed Blatter to announce shortly after the tournament that each of the 209 voting countries would receive $750,000 each to share in the success of the tournament.

    Whilst it is a insignificant sum for the larger footballing nations, it is of far greater significance for those countries who have little or no history or probability of participating in the finals.

    How this money is spent is down to the individual football associations to determine. FIFA has no involvement or audit of these distributions. The DPR North Korean Football Association, for example, earned $8 million from participating in the 2010 finals in South Africa. There is zero evidence to support that any of this money was spent on the sport.

    (b) First class benefits:

    FIFA delegates are well looked after. In 2013, when FIFA held the Confederations Cup in Brazil (effectively a dress rehearsal of the 2014 competition), FIFA spent $70 million on expenses for the tournament. It spent a further $68 million on travel and accommodation for countries who were in the qualifying tournament for the finals themselves. The delegates have Blatter to thank for five star hotels and business class travel around the world to the FIFA Annual Congress and other events.

    Blatter's Bloopers

    Blatter has made a number of comments over the years that have provoked criticism. He claimed that women's football would be more popular if players wore " tighter shorts and low cut shirts", that racism on the pitch could be resolved with a handshake, and that homosexual fans travelling to Qatar for the 2022 tournament should "refrain from sexual activity". His failure to criticise the Russian football authority, which recently suspended and fined a black player, Guelor Kanga, who reacted to racist chanting and behaviour from fans, has added to the view that he is happy to racism, sexism and homophobia in the game.

    Will the Prince be king?

    Prince Ali's chances of success will probably depend on the reaction of FIFA's main sponsors, who contributed over $400 million in marketing income to FIFA in 2013, and even more in the World Cup final year. If these global organisations, such as Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa are unhappy with being associated with FIFA and it's reputation, they could put profit on the delegates to reform and have a fresh start under new leadership. Ali has earned plaudits for his work in some grassroots projects in football, and encouraging FIFA to relax rules in relation to religious headgear. Whether this is enough to displace Blatter from his throne is at present unlikely in my view.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Dick Knights Mumm's Avatar
      Dick Knights Mumm -
      The example set to the world by this organisation is sickening. It just says that corruption is acceptable, and if you are going to do it - do it on a big scale and be brazen about it.
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