Could England Lead a Breakaway from FIFA?

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2014

COSTA DO SAUIPE, BAHIA - DECEMBER 05:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter attends the FIFA Executive Committee Meeting Press Conference during a media day ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw at Costa do Sauipe Resort on December 5, 2013 in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

We all know what FIFA is, but what does it actually do?

It appears to have two functions. Firstly, world football's governing body organises and selects the host of the World Cup. Secondly, it generates obscene amounts of money from the beautiful game's showpiece event. 

According to the Guardian's Simon Jenkins, the 2010 World Cup cost South African taxpayers £3 billion, while leaving them with a return of £323 million, an economic slump and a bevy of white elephant stadia.

FIFA, meanwhile, left the tournament in profit and with cash reserves of $1.3 billion (£774 million). 

Felipe Dana/Associated Press

As you are no doubt aware from the backdrop of political protests, there is a similar fiscal theme running through the tournament in Brazil. The World Cup is thought to be costing the South American nation £11 billion.

They will be left with 12 new and updated stadia and some improved infrastructure, but it is very unlikely they will recoup anything near their outlay. FIFA, of course, will stroll away in profit when they pack up the circus and move it on. 

This is the second of three consecutive World Cups where security and crime have been primary concerns for fans and players, but in 2022, an even bigger obstacle will face those in attendance: stifling heat.

The tiny Gulf state of Qatar is set to host its first World Cup, despite its dangerously unsuitable climate, complete lack of football heritage and small population.

To suggest this choice of host is about anything other than money seems naive. Throughout the over-long presidency of Sepp Blatter, allegations of bribery and corruption within FIFA's Executive Committee have been rife.

A few weeks ago, the Sunday Times (subscription required) took huge steps to confirm suspicions that Qatar bought votes for the World Cup by revealing millions of documents and communications.

A FIFA ethics investigator might sound like a contradiction in terms, but American lawyer Michael Garcia holds this title and has been tasked with looking into the Qatar bid process. Incredibly, he has said he will not consider the Sunday Times' exhaustive evidence.

Herein lies the problem of FIFA. It is unpoliced and self-regulated. When one considers this apparent abuse—and Sepp Blatter's attempts to run for office for the fourth time in 2015—Plato's famous refrain comes to mind: "Who will guard the guardians?"

Eraldo Peres/Associated Press

Aside from any accusations of wrongdoing, Blatter is clearly a divisive presence. The 78-year-old is a frequent purveyor of foolish comments and has shown insensitivity towards race, sexuality, gender and culture. His foot is in his mouth so often that it's amazing he is able to walk.

Clearly, FIFA is a problematic entity. Few member associations are satisfied with the way it operates (the USA have even said they will not bid for any more World Cups until the governing body has been reformed), and both players and fans hold it with little regard.

There are two options for dealing with FIFA: Pile on pressure and demand reform, or break away and start a new governing body. The former option seems unlikely to have any effect on a organisation that is self-regulating and does not have to answer to anyone.

So that leaves a breakaway. 

This is exactly what Simon Jenkins suggests in his recent Guardian article:

Unreasoning government is always dangerous. When unreason is fed by corruption, and corruption goes unpunished, the only sensible response is to give it a wide berth.

If a fresh start is to be achieved, the revolt will need to be spearheaded by a national football association which others will follow by example. The French started FIFA 110 years ago, so why couldn't the English help start a new governing body?

Britain is, after all, considered to be the birthplace of the modern game, so it holds a right—nay, a duty—to protect its game from the corruption, poor decisions and rampant commercialisation that have become prevalent in the current regime.  

Michel Platini has never appeared to be a fan of the English or the dominance of the Premier League, but the UEFA president this week backtracked on his unwavering support for Qatar 2022, suggesting a new vote might be necessary (via the Guardian).

Some may point the finger at Platini for his role in the Gulf state's selection, but if he is willing to seize power in a new organisation, he would be a very powerful ally in a breakaway governing body.

Blatter has failed to keep his house in order for the past 16 years, so it is time for his house guests to rise up and build their own dwelling across the street.

And it might be up to the English FA to lay the first few bricks.


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