Thursday

24th Jun 2021

Fifa chief under fire in new EP campaign

The European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday (21 January) saw plotters launch a coup against a 78-year old president, who has been in power since 1998 and who is surrounded by corruption scandals.

“We need a revolution”, one of the conspirators, former Australian football official Bonita Mersiades, said.

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The target of the coup is Fifa.

The world football authority has such a “miserable reputation” that something must be done, Ivo Belet, a Belgian centre-right MEP noted.

Belet, together with two British deputies from the ruling Conservative Party - Emma McClarkin and Damian Collins - oganised Wednesday’s hearing in the name of New Fifa Now.

The self-styled “movement” is urging Fifa to provide greater “democracy, transparency, and accountability”.

“We all care about football”, McClarkin said, in remarks echoed by several panelists. But she added that love shouldn’t blind fans to absence of “good governance”.

“Sport should be governing itself, but we have an obligation to step in when that doesn't seem to be working”.

Mersiades, a sports consultant who used to work at the Australian regulator, Football Federation Australia, agreed.

She criticised Fifa’s handling of a 2012 corruption scandal in which it commissioned former US attorney Michael Garcia to look into the allegations.

“Who ever heard of an independent investigation executed by someone who is being paid by the organisation he is investigating?”, she asked.

David Triesman, a member of the UK House of Lords and a former chairman of England's Football Association, told MEPs that Fifa has a “historical indifference to its faults”.

“Football needs to come into the real world”.

He put Sepp Blatter, the 78-year old Swiss president of Fifa since 1998, at the heart of the problem.

“Had this been a chairman of public office, he could not have survived the series of [Fifa corruption] scandals”, he said.

The other British MEP, Collins, agreed: “Blatter is part of the problem, not part of the solution”.

The Fifa president, who has denied claims of wrongdoing and who will stand for re-election in 2015, was not invited to the EU event.

For its part, Uefa, the European football body, has also come out against a fifth Blatter presidency.

But it won't be enough to stop him as it’s just one of six world federations involved in the selection process.

Meanwhile, the European Commission’s hands are tied.

Under the Lisbon treaty in 2009 the EU has no power to legislate on sports.

But even if it could pass sports laws in EU states, it would have no jurisdiction on the independent, Swiss-based international organisation.

It begs the question who, given Fifa’s problems, has the power to make it reform?

For Dutch centre-right MEP Esther de Lange, Switzerland itself should take responsibility, giving EU capitals an opportunity to use diplomacy to stimulate change.

"Why not press the Swiss in bilateral meetings?”, she said at the EP event.

She added that any EU campaign should not just involve sports ministers if it is to make an impact.

“If our PMs and economy ministers don't speak up, it will be limited in effect”, she warned.

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