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FIFA must be held to account, not just Blatter and Platini

Soccer

We’re all entitled to enjoy the fall of FIFA’s tarnished leaders, writes Paul Marcuccitti, but it’s still too little – and not soon enough.

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The mighty fall

I told you about Michel Platini didn’t I? Way back in June, when Sepp Blatter began his long resignation and the Frenchman was the short-priced favourite to be the next FIFA President.

But even I didn’t expect to see him fall as spectacularly as he did last night – and alongside the man he sought to replace – when FIFA’s ethics committee banned him from all football-related activity for eight years.

Many (if not most) of Platini’s supporters have been guilty of breathtaking hypocrisy.

epa05077572 (FILE) A composite file picture of FIFA President Joseph Blatter (taken on 30 May 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland) and UEFA President Michel Platini (taken on 29 August 2014 in Monaco). FIFA President Joseph Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini were banned from football for eight years by the ethics committee of football's world governing body on 21 December 2015.. EPA/ENNIO LEANZA - SEBASTIEN NOGIER

Blatter, left, and Platini. Photos: EPA/ENNIO LEANZA & SEBASTIEN NOGIER

They tried to use the stench of corruption to bring Blatter down but were only too willing to get behind a man: who admitted to voting for Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup; who supported moving that tournament from June/July (its traditional months) to November/December (which disrupts the big European leagues) well before that decision was made; and whose son landed a job with Qatar Sports Investments not long after the gulf nation won the 2022 hosting rights.

Supporting Platini was never about a fresh start for FIFA. That was just spin designed to shift power back to Europe, the old continent which had seen Blatter, and his predecessor João Havelange, win followers around the rest of the world.

The Europeans were so wedded to Platini that well after his Qatar links were known, they allowed him to be re-elected unopposed as president of UEFA (Europe’s regional confederation). Goodness, the English Football Association – supposedly so aggrieved by the outcomes of the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights – didn’t drop its support for him until October.

And the bluff nearly succeeded. Blatter, who almost certainly didn’t vote for Qatar 2022, was blamed for it. Platini, whose career moves as a soccer politician have mostly been Blatter-esque, was positioned as an alternative. But the reality was he offered nothing but the replacing of one rotten faction with another.

How the mighty have fallen: Blatter addresses media overnight in Zurich. Photo: EPA/WALTER BIERI

Blatter addresses media overnight in Zurich. Photo: EPA/WALTER BIERI

Five men are in the race to succeed Blatter as FIFA President in an election in February. Some are better than others.

But it would be a mistake to expect too much from the successful candidate. FIFA’s Executive Committee (ExCo) is where the biggest power games are played. Its members, mostly unknown to the public, can defeat the President in crucial votes, such as in deciding World Cup hosts. In structure it’s not dissimilar to your local council where elected members can roll the mayor who might then bear the responsibility of decisions he or she didn’t support.

Media have largely failed to make ExCo members, nearly all of whom are elected by regional confederations, accountable for FIFA’s actions. Blatter has been the easy target but have you heard of Marios Lefkaritis or Hany Abo Rida or Şenes Erzik?

Of course you probably haven’t but, like Blatter and Platini, they all voted in the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. They’re still on the ExCo too.

It’s now been five years since those votes took place. How many European journalists have spent some of that time trying to get answers out of those chaps instead of just occasionally dusting off the traditional “Sepp Blatter sucks” column?

If people really care about a better FIFA, they have to make everyone on the ExCo (and then the 36-member FIFA Council which will replace it) responsible for their decisions.

Had that been done with more vigour in recent years, perhaps some of the shenanigans that have seen a few ExCo members fall could have been exposed much longer ago.

Still, we’re all entitled to enjoy last night’s events. The only disappointment is it took the receiving of a large payment with “no legal basis” to finish Platini. Other crimes against the sport remain unpunished.

Paul Marcuccitti’s regular soccer column is published in InDaily on Mondays. He is a co-presenter of 5RTI’s Soccer on 531 program which can be heard from 11am on Saturdays.

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