POSTED: October 13th 2015
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JOHN GOODBODY: Bach is right - FIFA needs an independent president


THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Certainly not before time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has voiced its disapproval of the murky dealings at FIFA. Thomas Bach, the IOC President, may have waited too long before pronouncing his criticism of elected officials of the world governing body of football but at least he has now come out strongly and loudly for widespread reform.

The reason why it is important for the IOC to speak out is two- fold. First, because, although FIFA is strictly speaking not answerable to anyone, (except everyone who loves the game), nevertheless football is an Olympic sport as well as being the most popular in the world. Second, because the Olympic Movement and participation in the Games can be seen as demanding a higher level of ethical values than those of the world championships in any sport.

Many people have unfavourably contrasted the lack of sufficient action by FIFA in dealing with its crisis with that of the IOC, when the Salt Lake City scandal broke in 1998. However, the level of corruption and the amounts of money involved were venial in that earlier case and the IOC reacted quickly to ensure that the Movement could progress.

The fact that Sepp Blatter, the FIFA President, and Michel Platini, the Uefa President, have been provisionally suspended for 90 days by the FIFA Ethics Committee, while former vice-president Chung Mong-joon has been banned for six years indicates how profound this scandal has gone. These individuals may have pronounced their innocence but these actions have followed a tsunami of suspensions and resignations involving many of the leading members of the FIFA Executive Committee.

As Bach said:"Enough is enough. We hope that now, finally everyone at FIFA has at last understood that they cannot continue to remain passive. They must act swiftly to regain credibility because you cannot forever dissociate the credibility of FIFA from the credibility of football."

Bach pointed to the IOC's Agenda 2020, to which Blatter and members of the FIFA Executive Committee, who are also IOC members, signed up. This required accountability, transparency and good governance.

Yet, who is now standing in as interim FIFA President? Step forward Issa Hayatou, a vice-president and IOC member, who was himself reprimanded by the IOC after allegations that he received money in the awarding of TV rights. Hayatou denied any wrong-doing and said that the money went to the African Football Confederation (CAF). Hayatou has said he is not now a candidate for the presidency.

Bach is surely right when he says that the situation is not just "a structural problem" and will not be solved simply by a new president to replace Blatter, who will stand down in February 2016, when a new one is elected.

Platini was favourite for this post but he has to answer the charge, which he denies, that he received a "disloyal payment" of about $2 million from Blatter shortly before he voted for him to stay as FIFA President in 2011. The Swiss criminal authorities are regarding Platini as "between a witness and a suspect". Platini claims that he received the money for services that he gave to FIFA between 1998 and 2002, saying that he did not get the payment at that time because the world governing body could not afford to pay him. Yet, FIFA had plenty of money available at the time.

Other candidates are scarce. Even a reforming figure such as Prince Ali of Jordan, who has not been tainted by the scandal, may still be regarded as being too much of the old guard to be acceptable.

Bach has urged that there should be a "credible external Presidential candidate of high integrity to accomplish the necessary reforms and bring back stability and credibility to FIFA."

 The question now is where this person can be found and whether he will get the necessary backing from the football federations round the world, who have been so much in debt to Blatter and members of his Executive Committee for so long.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  


Keywords · Olympics · FIFA · John Goodbody


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