Sepp Blatter insists Fifa is ready to clean up its act
The Fifa president, fresh from his landslide victory, promises reform at the governing body
As a group of Fifa employees scurried furiously around the Zurich Hallenstadion to prepare the stage for newly re-elected Sepp Blatter’s victory news conference, one worker looked particularly focused.
Head down and armed with a mop, she relentlessly paced the length of the stage, broom glued to the floor to ensure no millimetre of the polished black surface escaped her sweep.
Moments later, with the stage glistening and the world listening, the Fifa president promised an equally meticulous clean-up at his organisation.
“We will put Fifa’s ship back on the right course in clear, transparent waters,” he declared. “Reforms will be made. Not just touch-ups, but radical decisions – the necessary reforms.”
The vague outlines for change he has set out this week are hardly ground-breaking, but Blatter appears to have conceded he now has no choice but to nudge Fifa at least some way towards mirroring the transparency of the clear glass walls that comprise its £65m headquarters on a hill above Zurich.
“We are going to create more transparency,” he insisted. “And we are ready to move forward. We’re in a situation which needs not just words – but also action.”
Fifa’s congress, Blatter said, will decide the hosts of future World Cups from a short-list, rather than the 24-man executive committee.
The controversy which enshrouded the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 decisions made its mark. And with hindsight, Blatter admitted that holding the votes for two tournaments on the same day was a recipe for disaster.
“It was probably not the best solution,” he conceded. “Frankly, it was a mistake to have two World Cups together for one announcement – it was bound to create collisions.”
But unsurprisingly, many have been left unconvinced by the 75-year-old’s vows. The chairman of the European Club Association (ECA), Karl-Heinz Remmenigge, voiced his concern in a statement released just minutes after Blatter was re-elected.
“I request Fifa to immediately introduce democratic and transparent structures and procedures,” said Bayern Munich chief Remmenigge.
“European clubs will not longer accept that they do not participate in decision-making when it comes to club-related matters.
“We will closely follow Fifa’s development in this respect in the future and take appropriate measures if there is no improvement.”
What action Europe’s clubs could actually take, however, remains to be seen.
Over the two-day congress Blatter made a point of insisting that Fifa’s problems are to be solved internally, within his organisation’s crystal-clear walls.
And during his news conference he laughed off suggestions that the ECA could take legal action against the governing body if it isn’t permitted to become more involved in Fifa’s dealings.
“What lawyers? Fifa laywers?” he asked. “Our statutes say we don’t go to see lawyers. We go to the Fifa bodies, we go to the disciplinary committee and the other committees.”
The Fifa chief went on to describe his “surprise” at the English Football Association’s failed bid to postpone the presidential election.
David Bernstein, who later said the FA’s efforts had been “worthwhile” despite coming under fire from a number of Fifa members, will be watching closely to discover if Blatter””as he begins his fourth term in charge””can deliver on the promises he has made this week.