With Fifa in the dock and the ban on Blatter and Platini, the sports body has no choice but to clean up its act.
It is ironic that even as it probes graft charges of over $200 million, Fifa banned Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini for irregularity in a payment of just $2 million. As a player Platini was known for his vision.
Surprising he didn’t see this one coming. From the time he became joint-head of the 1998 World Cup, Platini brought a lot to football as an administrator. Under his watch, the Champions League became the world’s richest club competition and he introduced additional assistant referees on the goal line instead of getting Europe to adopt the hugely expensive goal line technology. Unless the ban is reduced or overturned, such innovations will now have to wait.
But then Platini is only 60, mid-life at worst for sports administrators or politicians even if it means superannuation for many others. If three months short of his ninth decade, Blatter vows to fight the verdict of a committee he had appointed to clean up Fifa, can you blame Platini?
A notoriously opaque body calls to end wheeling-dealing have been made for a long time especially by Europe, the haves of the football world. But Blatter won election after election by wooing the have-nots. And he made Fifa richer carrying forward the legacy of his mentor Joao Havelange by exploiting the commercial potential of the men’s World Cup. It is the one Fifa product that not only overwrites the losses of all other events.
Things changed after Loretta Lynch took over as the USA’s attorney general. Stating that tainted money was routed through the US and that gave her the right to investigate, Lynch cracked down on Fifa. Vladimir Putin may have felt Blatter deserved the Nobel but it’s gone downhill for him since.
Lynch’s effect on Fifa may be what the bribery scandal over the 2002 Winter Olympics venue was to the International Olympic Committee or the match-fixing scandal in 2000 to the International Cricket Council. Even as it contemplates expanding the 2026 World Cup to 40 teams, Fifa will have to agree to reforms. And it would start with fixed terms for presidents and perhaps integrity checks on officials. The vote on this at its extraordinary congress on February 26, 2016, will be a pointer to things to come.