Within the space of 24 hours at the start of the month, both UEFA and FIFA released press releases concerning the future of the game.
On September 2, UEFA confirmed that their experimental additional assistant referees behind each goal would continue for the next two years; two days later, FIFA, having taken a solid stance against video technology, released a statement stating that they would not interfere if a national association wanted to punish players guilty of diving.
On September 9, FIFA then announced that they would be publicising extended interviews with Joseph S. Blatter, as he gives his unique insight into the hot topics within the game today.
The significance of the timing of FIFA's statement's should not be underestimated.
Since coming into office in January 2007, Michel Platini has had much to say concerning the health of the game.
The 55-year-old has been vocal on the many issues concerning the health of football: From player wages, to direct foreign investment, transfer spending, to reducing the influence of the four major leagues in European competition, and diving, Michel Platini comes across as a man who knows about the evils plaguing the sport.
These many statements have seen his popularity rise as the ex-France No. 10 comes across as a "hands on" kind of boss and he is now seen as one of the most progressive minds in the game today.
All of this while Sepp Blatter, FIFA's President, goes on whatever photo opportunity will afford him the most publicity.
Blatter has recognised that his tenure as FIFA boss is under threat from the popular Frenchman and from Korean vice-president Chung Mong-Joon, and has begun a PR style campaign to raise his profile before next year's presidential voting begins.
In June, as the World Cup kicked off in South Africa, Sepp Blatter even started a Twitter account so he could show the world his musings—this backfired incredibly, as though Blatter (or his PR people) completely misinterpreted what the site could be used for and how easy it was to communicate through with many twitterers, asking the FIFA president to come clean about bribes, corruption, fraudulent behaviour, and sexism amongst other topics.
However, Blatter is on the front foot and is essentially canvasing and knocking on doors as we speak, trying to get one up on the dark horse in the FIFA race to be president, Michel Platini.
This time last year, diving was in all the headlines after Eduardo Da Silva's outrageous simulation against Celtic in the Champions League Playoff almost earned him a two match ban.
UEFA had taken the stance after it was lobbied by the Scottish Football Association to take action after Arsenal had dumped Celtic out of the Champions League. After holding a meeting UEFA's disciplinary committee announced that the Croatian striker would serve a two match ban under Article 10 (1c) of UEFA's statutes.
This was the first major case of its kind concerning a player at the highest level and indicated to the world that UEFA was prepared to use video evidence as a tool going forward. In the end, Arsenal's team of lawyers argued that their player could not conclusively be proved to have dived, while Arsene Wenger declared it as a "witch-hunt," and the case was thrown out.
Arsenal's case centered on a certain camera angle where they claimed contact between Artur Boruc and Eduardo, while UEFA was able to use different camera angles to show that no contact had been made.
With video evidence inconclusive, the vital evidence came from the referee on the night, Manuel Enrique Mejuto González, the man who awarded the penalty, and the case swung in Arsenal's favour.
To all and sundry, it looked as if UEFA was not prepared to go the whole hog and fight the case, while the silence coming from FIFA's headquarters in Switzerland was deafening.
The inconclusively of the video evidence in the Eduardo incident fell perfectly into Michel Platini's greater plan for the game, as the following day he announced that UEFA was piloting an experimental system using referees behind each goal in the Europa League—a progressive move that garnered him much support from Europe's elite managers.
For the most part, the scheme was a success and on September 2, UEFA announced that the experiment would be rolled out across all UEFA fixtures over the coming two years to further address the situation.
It should be noted that UEFA's reaction to dealing with simulation was tempered by FIFA's view on the problem: Meaning that the European based governing body did not have the authority to introduce video technology as a tool in matches without FIFA's say so.
While all of this was going on, FIFA sat coolly back and watched how the cards were laid out—not knowing that a mere three months later, the entire world would be talking about video technology again.
On November 18 2009, Ireland travelled to Paris to take on France in the second leg their playoff to reach the World Cup in South Africa. With France leading 1-0 thanks to a Nicolas Anelka goal in Dublin, few expected Ireland to progress.
However, a heroic performance from the Irish put them firmly in the driver's seat.
Robbie Keane's early strike made the match level and the two teams headed towards extra-time.
In the 103rd minute, the incident that will be forever remembered as "the hand of Frog," or to be exact: The day the argument against video technology died happened as Thierry Henry controlled the ball with his hand before passing to William Gallas, who scored the winning goal.
That goal sent France through to South Africa and Ireland home with their tail between their legs.
Video technology was once again on the agenda as the media of the entire world focused in on this one incident. FIFA went running for cover as commentators called for video technology to be introduced immediately.
They rejected the claims and countered by conducted their own investigation into the incident—the end result was a complete rejection of video technology as a tool for use in football, with the governing body further stating that the referee had all the laws of the game as his disposal to deal with such incidents.
Football lovers the world over hung their heads in shame at FIFA's pig-headedness and blatant refusal to recognise video technology as a tool that could be used to advance the sport.
The silence coming from Switzerland left many to ponder that FIFA actually wanted all the controversy that such incidents caused as that vital moment would be played out across the media, in all shapes and forms, for days after the match.
In effect, controversy keeps soccer on the back pages.
The video technology issue came back to bite FIFA in the most outrageous way possible in South Africa this summer as Frank Lampard scored a legitimate goal for England against Germany with the scores at 1-2.
The vital miss by the referee left Jogi Loew's lethal side to eventually run riot in a 4-1 win but should the game have gone 2-2 then who knows what would have happened.
That same evening and everybody in the world saw exactly how video evidence could be used to benefit the game, after one of the video technicians in Soccer City mistakenly allowed the replay of a controversial goal to be shown live.
It took all of 30 seconds for the entire world, and most importantly the referee, to see that Carlos Tevez's goal should have been disallowed.
The referee looked bewildered as to what to do. He had missed the initial offside but could plainly see that the goal was offside. Mexican players surrounded him to get the goal chalked off while Argentinean's argued that video technology was not permissible!
In the end the decision lay with Roberto Rosetti, with the Italian referee deciding to play within the confines of the rules and allow the goal.
FIFA's statement on the matter after the match?
Nothing on the goal being offside—No, that would have been too easy. FIFA decided to castigate the video technician for allowing the incident to be replayed, and then criticised the standard of refereeing.
The world's governing body was at its lowest point, possibly since the whole ISL corruption scandal, and needed to regain ground quickly if Blatter was to ride on as FIFA president for another four years.
On September 2, UEFA announced at a meeting of Europe's elite coaches that their Europa League experiment would continue for another two years. Hamstrung by FIFA's refusal to allow video technology, Platini moved ahead with his vision for improving the game.
Only for Blatter to gazump the Frenchman.
Just two days later, FIFA released a statement allowing national associations to use video technology to retrospectively ban players for diving.
The statement went further by stating that under Article 79 of FIFA's rules that players could indeed be punished for offences missed by the referee.
This contradicts conventional wisdom and indeed FIFA's past views on the matter, as the governing body has always refused to allow video technology as the referee's word on the matter was final. In 2006, FIFA told the English FA that retrospective video evidence was not allowed and only last year the Swiss based governing body turned the SFA's exact same request down on the lines that the referee's word was final.
The effect on the game may be huge in the long run, but the effect that this decision could have on Blatter's campaign as he assembles supporters for his election could be a defining moment, either way.
Many feel that Blatter is now just pandering for votes after his steadfast refusal to listen to pleas over his 12 year tenure as FIFA president.
Feeling that he is firmly in the driving seat, Blatter has begun to push home his "insights" into the game and is now considering changing the way World Cup matches are played.
UEFA announced that the away goals rule, as far as extra time is concerned, is an issue that they are seriously considering.
Not to be outdone, Blatter then announced that FIFA was considering doing away with extra time altogether or a re-introducing the Golden Goal rule to increase attacking play.
However, as anyone who has played football will attest that the Golden Goal actually promotes defensive play rather than attacking play, as the smallest of mistakes could see a team being knocked out the tournament.
What all this adds up to is that Blatter sees Platini as a very viable candidate and dangerous opponent for the Presidential elections.
Platini and Chung are both clean as far as ISL is concerned and it is likely that some old questions may be dragged up for Blatter to answer during the election run in.
The skeletons in Blatter’s closet during this campaign are his links with the collapse of FIFA's marketing partner ISL.
In 2002, Blatter was directly accused corruption by the then-FIFA's secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen after he submitted a 30 page report detailing corruption, cronyism, fraud, and other malpractices during Blatter's four year reign as President between 1998 and 2002.
The allegations went one step further by stating that Blatter was linked to the collapse of ISL, FIFA's marketing partner, and that the final cost of its collapse could cost FIFA around $300 million. Lennart Johannsen, the President of UEFA at the time, backed the claims completely.
ISL was awarded the most lucrative television rights contract in the world in 2000 when they won the tender for the TV rights to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. However, by 2001 the organisation no longer existed and had debts estimated at around $300 million with allegations that the company was bribing FIFA officials to win lucrative contracts.
A dossier of the allegations was handed to Swiss Police so they could investigate the matter but no wrong doing on Blatter's behalf was found. An internal FIFA investigation into the allegations was then set up but it was halted by Blatter in April 2002, just one month before the re-election.
FIFA became splintered at the time with long time Blatter supporters South America and Central America backing him while Europe, Africa, and Asia campaigned against him. However, it would appear as if Blatter was able to split the opposing block vote through the promise of future tournaments.
Blatter was dealt a blow in August of this year when Zug Investigative Magistrate Thomas Hildbrand forced him to admit that some senior FIFA Executive Committee members took massive kickbacks from the ISL marketing company. The ability of Hildebrand to get Blatter to admit to such dealings some ten years after he had though the case closed may bring some old wounds to the fore as the run-in begins.
The news is also likely to bring up old hostilities in the corridors of power in the footballing world as Chung and Platini line up to oppose Blatter. The move is likely to infuriate South America and Ricardo Teixiera in particular, the nephew of Joao Havalange, who are already believed to have given Blatter full backing for 2011, as it is generally believed that Blatter will endorse Teixiera in 2015 when he steps down.
All in all, this makes for an interesting next year in footballing politics.
Blatter, it would appear, is coming out fighting and is doing his best to come across as more progressive than Platini, the question left though; is what will he do when Chung and Platini actually start their campaigns?
This article was previously featured on Tiger Beer Football, where Willie Gannon is the featured Blogger, over 18s only.
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