Football has had a tumultuous week PR wise.
The papers have literally been splattered with Blatter and if you don’t know about it, then I doubt you’re reading this blog as who even needs news anyway?
The newspapers have torn the FIFA president to shreds. Pol Pot has had better column inches and he had it in for everyone that could read.
With septic Sepp’s FIFA cronies snaffled by the FBI and Swiss police on the eve of his bid for re-election, it seemed certain that the game was up. How could he continue as president with corruption apparently rife in the organisation that he’s tasked with leading? Surely he’s culpable for such seemingly widespread wrongdoing?
In any other industry or walk of life, Blatter would have taken the fall. But not when it comes to FIFA. FIFA doesn’t operate within the traditional sphere of normality. On Friday he was duly re-elected, before sneeringly turning on the British press that had attacked him, claiming that it and the US authorities were in a campaign to topple him, motivated by revenge.
His re-election beggared belief.
It made me wonder how he’s depicted in the rest of the world’s media. He’s been absolutely hammered in the British press. Anyone else given such a comprehensive media battering would have stepped down from office within hours, yet he’s clung on for days (years when you consider previous Qatar outrage).
But is there a sense of indifference elsewhere? Is it the equivalent of a windy afternoon in the Hebrides to someone living in London? Maybe Blatter, sat safe in his ivory tower in Switzerland, can afford to pay no notice to a storm brewing in far-flung Britain. With African and Asian backing, and France, Russia and Spain too, does he give a proverbial toss? It’s doubtful he does.
Until the FBI comes knocking that is. Now it seems that the slipperiest of slippery characters has finally been caught.
Blatter unexpectedly resigned yesterday, which suggests the feds have got some serious dirt on him.
And that’s absolutely marvellous for football.
The Teflon don is gone, non-stick no more. Greasy palms and oily handshakes, well lubricated with backhanders, have finally left their mark on him.
Hopefully he’s looking at a prison sentence.
I remember the impotent fury I felt during the World Cup bidding process when, despite several key FIFA executives acknowledging the strength of the English bid and indeed stating that they would be backing England, we fell at the first round of voting. Based on everything that had been said and the opposition bids, it was clear that underhand deals had been done. But who had proof?
The investigative team at the Sunday Times believed it had. But the laughable FIFA investigation that followed, where England (having been cooperative) were criticised by the organisation for attempting to influence executives, whereas Qatar and Russia (having been uncooperative) were cleared of any wrongdoing, was a FIFA engineered whitewash.
The US attorney who conducted the actual investigation said that the published findings were ‘materially incomplete’ upon their release. Basically meaning that FIFA had published what it wanted to publish and what suited its means. I seethed at the injustice, seeing us powerless in the face of the laughing, Blofeld-esque fat cats, clearly all patting each other on their self-satisfied backs, chuckling at the English FA’s impotence through a haze of cigar smoke, whilst lounging in sold gold baths. Or so I imagined it.
Then came the FBI arrests and glorious retribution; a soothing balm for my seething soul.
A sense of personal grievance aside, the on-going controversy has been terrible PR for football in general. Rampant corruption in the highest echelons is never a boon for a sport’s reputation. Cycling is forever tarnished by doping; cricket has been buffeted by match fixing; can football get away with large-scale bribery? It remains to be seen what impact it will have in the long term, but hopefully the lancing of the Blatter boil will be enough to start some serious reform. Many people are disillusioned with international football. This could be the turning point.
But English football needs to pad out its greenhouse windows too. Leicester City is probably more chuffed than others about the FIFA fiasco. Having so admirably escaped Premier League relegation, the club has been the recipient of appalling headlines this week. Three fringe first team players out in Thailand on a ‘goodwill tour’ (yes, really) appeared in an awful sex tape with Thai prostitutes. The language used by the players in the tape was horrendously derogatory, degrading and racist to the women involved. The fact that one of the players was the manager’s son only served to compound matters, as did the fact that the club is Thai owned.
The footballers are openly talking to the cameras in the clip; it wasn’t grainy footage taken secretively by an onlooker. It was brazen and absolutely brain-dead stupidity.
The FIFA scandal has helped to bury the story, but it just reinforces the sense of misogynistic privilege that seems to permeate the game.
And after a brilliant FA cup final with a wonderful display of actual football (and not just its wider image) from Arsenal, Jack Wilshere sings a boorish, expletive laden song slating the club’s north London rivals over the loudspeaker during their victory parade, again doing the image of football no favours.
A bad week for football headline wise then, but one that’s ended well. He might be ‘back at work today’ but Sepp’s days are definitely numbered. Blatter, bye-bye.