Over the last few years several different investigations have made it abundantly clear that major changes are needed within the governing body of football, FIFA. Throughout this period one man has stood at the top, telling us it will all be alright, and that things will improve if we stick with him. Sepp Blatter has made a living telling football fans around the world that the minor changes he makes will improve the game while ignoring problems that have and continue to plague football around the world.
Blatter’s career, beginning with being elected President of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders, to being chosen as Technical Director, General Secretary, and culminating in being elected President of FIFA, has been marked along the way with controversy. Blatter’s initial election as President was rampant with rumors of financial mismanagement (FIFA marketing partner ISL had lost over $100 million) and even outright accusations of bribery by Somali Football Federation VP Farra Ado. The internal investigation conducted by FIFA was cancelled by Blatter after confidentiality agreements were broken. FIFA were eventually forced to foot the bill of the loss.
Blatter’s controversy continues though, in 2004 Blatter suggested that female players should “wear tighter shorts and low cut shirts... to create a more female aesthetic" in an effort to attract more male fans. In 2006, Blatter refused to be on stage during the trophy presentation ceremony after the World Cup Final “for fear of being whistled.”
Blatter has continued to refuse to adopt goal-line technology as well as implement video replay rules. Yet the thin-skinned Blatter continued to criticize a number of poor refereeing decisions such as allowing Carlos Tevez’ goal against Mexico, scored from an offside position and not allowing Frank Lampard’s goal against Germany when the ball clearly crossed the line. After these incidents Blatter acknowledged that the issues would have to be reopened, but nearly a year later there is no implementation date in relevant discussion.
Sepp’s greatest failure as FIFA President has been his handling of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. Before the selection even took place, two members of FIFA’s executive committee were suspended after a British newspaper revealed that their votes could be bought in exchange for money for facilities in their respective countries Nigeria and Tahiti. A British Parliamentary investigation into the failed 2018 World Cup bid revealed that Lord Treisman, the man in charge of the England bid, was approached by representatives from four countries seeking favors in exchange for England votes.
Allegations continued when it was discovered that on the heels of his black market ticket scandal, CONCACAF president Jack Warner had sought 2.5 million pounds for an education center in Trinidad and Tobago in exchange for his England vote. The bid, which was eventually awarded to Russia was criticized because of the racist nature of many Russian fans, a direct conflict to FIFA’s campaign to eliminate racism from the game.
Investigations have also revealed that representatives from Côte d'Ivoire and Cameroon were offered money in exchange for their votes in favor of Qatar. Qatar, the nation that will host the 2022 World Cup has come under fire for a variety of reasons since being chosen. When asked about what homosexual fans would do while the World Cup is hosted in a country where homosexuality is forbidden, Blatter responded by saying “I would say they should refrain from homosexual activities.” Qatar has also been criticized because of its small size; the country’s population would grow by nearly 25% while accommodating the World Cup. Qatar will also face struggles with the weather as the average summer temperature is around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Fans going to Qatar will also be limited to consuming alcohol within certain areas as drinking in public is illegal in the country.
Sepp Blatter’s reign as FIFA President has been filled with oversights, inaction, and corruption. Although Sepp has publically pledged to address these issues, particularly corruption, it has been nearly six months since the initial allegations have arisen and no actions have been taken. The re-election of Blatter will continue the beautiful game down a decidedly ugly path.