A shake of the head and a roll of the eyes is the most anyone could muster when confirmation of Sepp Blatter’s reelection was confirmed earlier today, for the grim reality of the situation is just how inevitable it was.

Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, Blatter’s only competition for the presidency of FIFA, had spent the days leading up to the vote trying to sound optimistic, but privately, even he must have accepted he couldn’t win.

All this came in the wake of a corruption scandal that surprised no one. The shady goings-on at the Bond Villain HQ of world football’s governing body is old news that’s simply been given a brighter spotlight by the World Cup bids for 2018 and 2022. The FBI and Swiss investigations into wrongdoing, followed by the arrests made in the days preceding the election, should have been enough to warrant Blatter’s resignation, but Blatter – whose presidency has been littered by scandals – is as stubborn and bulletproof as they come; resignation will never have crossed his mind.

Blatter may be suspected of wrongdoing and the investigations may yet end up at his doorstep, but as things stand, Blatter hasn’t been proven guilty of any crime.

That shouldn’t really matter of course. For most, Blatter’s ‘innocence’ is beside the point. Under his watch, widespread and systemic corruption has spread through the ranks of FIFA, permeating every corner of the organisation. Whether he was complicit in that corruption or not should be irrelevant. If he was, he’s a criminal, if he wasn’t, he’s grossly incompetent. Either way, this isn’t a man who should be leading the world game.

Yet the unfortunate reality is, Blatter was democratically elected by the member associations and that fact alone provides Blatter with his bullet-dodging superpowers. Sepp knew, the second this latest corruption scandal hit, that the FIFA presidency election would still go his way and now that’s been confirmed, the result gives him all the ammunition he needs to fire back and spin this latest scandal to his advantage.

You may laugh at how futile any attempts to spin this will sound, but that’s probably because you’re living in Europe or North America and seeing the crisis through a filter of western media.

In some parts of the world, Blatter isn’t seen as an incompetent, cartoonish villain undermining the integrity of the world game, but as a victim of Western elitism.

UEFA are, without contest, the most powerful confederation in world football, but their votes are insignificant to Blatter because they count equal to that of an Asian or African vote, regions where Blatter is very popular – perhaps rightly so, as both regions have hosted World Cups and developed considerably (in a football sense) under his watch.

Add a little conspiracy and spin from Blatter (and his powerful allies) and the undeniable justification for these investigations (ie. countries spending significant sums of tax payers’ money on a corrupt bidding process) is silenced by cries of elitism. The story becomes one of western powers throwing a collective tantrum, allowing Blatter to cast himself as some kind of great reformer. A hero of the ‘little guy’

UEFA’s nuclear option

Yet UEFA still hold the trump card in all of this. Their votes may be insignificant in the face of Blatter’s masterclass of political theatre, but cold hard cash comes largely from UEFA and North American involvement in FIFA.

It didn’t escape the attention of annoyed fans that cash is king in world football and in light of Wednesday’s arrests, an online petition was immediately launched calling for sponsors to abandon FIFA, something they’ve been reluctant to do despite issuing statements condemning the culture and calling for immediate reform.

The sponsors recognise how easily replaced they are by FIFA because the huge audiences FIFA tournaments command is a spotlight like no other for their brands.

But unlike the votes of national football associations, not all potential customers are created equal – at least, not in the eyes of sponsors. Exposure to the western market commands a premium and without European and North American interest, the money FIFA can make drops considerably.

What would drop even more considerably is broadcast revenues. This is the highest revenue stream by far for FIFA, generating much more income than sponsorships do, and here again, European and North American interest is key because TV networks in these regions pay the most money – money they’d have no interest in paying if they can’t sell the product to their own customers (be it via subscription, advertisers or both) because none of the teams their viewers are interested in are involved.

Nothing would scream ‘power coup by the elite’ like UEFA and North America pulling out of FIFA to starve them of massive revenues, but a World Cup without European and North American interest is a World Cup that makes very little money. If UEFA and North America go nuclear and the money dries up, Blatter’s power quickly begins to crumble. Only then can world football expect genuine reform.

9 Responses

  1. mattbb1

    I nominate Ken bates to clean up world football, we’ve missed his common sense corruption free take on things for too long now.

      • mattbb1

        Fair point, they’d be crying out for blatter to come back after 2 months culminating in bates crowning himself emperor of world football for life

  2. Irving08

    Threatening to pull out of FIFA implies boycotting the next World Cup in Russia. One does not need to be a cynic in order to suspect that this is the intent of the US authorities, who have been set back in first Syria and then Ukraine by the refusal of Russia, with the tacit consent of China and others, to submit to the American will. Our interest as Europeans is to distance ourselves from the US – we might begin by calling upon them to clean up their own sport (let alone their political system). Of course we have to take FIFA to task, but not in a way that breaks it up.

  3. Bluelampahead

    Prince Billy has waded into the debate now. Probably still a bit upset about Villa’s thrashing… Can’t believe that companies like Coca Cola and Mcdonalds would ever do anything as radical as show a bit of moral backbone by putting pressure on Blatter to resign. I guess that would be wrong anyway because of his ‘democratic’ mandate after the election? He’s untouchable and will remain so, I’m afraid.

  4. NottsWhite

    African and Asian confederations vote for the money not the man, no scruples I am afraid which is why Blatter will keep power for as long as he wants

  5. RichyM

    Ok Blatter is dodgy but what in football isn’t nowadays? Money goes to agents to smooth deals, people buy clubs and then take out huge loans for the club, restructured finance etc look at our own club and El Presidente’s chequered past. African football gets money to develop and some Fifa members cream some off the top, so what European football has been taking the cream of African football players for time now. Blatter is strong enough to face up to Uefa and the FBI because he is backed up by the places where football needs to be developed, Europe and North America are having a strop because they want a closed shop and want their already powerful football franchises to drip in even more money.

    • NottsWhite

      FIFA are the governing body, they should be stopping this corruption instead they are amongst the worst contributors. Not the best defence for Blatter, RichyM


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