Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Europe football chiefs welcome Blatter exit

  • Can Fifa be trusted to reform itself? (Photo: bildungsr0man)

European football chiefs have welcomed the resignation of Fifa boss Sepp Blatter, but they need to do some soul searching over their role in his recent reappointment.

“It was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision”, said Michel Platini, president of the European football association, Uefa, on Tuesday (2 June).

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He spoke after Blatter, earlier the same day, said he’d stand down as president of the world football association, Fifa.

“While I have a mandate from the membership of Fifa, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football - the fans, the players, the clubs”, the 79-year old Swiss official, who had led the body since 1998, told press.

His decision comes amid US and Swiss probes into Fifa corruption indicted 14 high-level officials.

Blatter, who was re-elected despite the scandal last Friday, had claimed he “could not watch everyone” in his hierarchy. But the latest reports indicate that he is himself a suspect in the US investigation.

For his part, Platini, last week, had urged Uefa nations to vote for Jordanian prince Ali bin al-Hussein instead of Blatter.

But more than a dozen European nations, including Spain and France, ignored him and backed Blatter anyway.

Uefa national chairs will meet later this week in Berlin, which, on Saturday, hosts the Uefa Champions League final.

The president of the Dutch football association, Michael van Praag, said they would “definitely” discuss Fifa.

“I'm looking forward to see how everyone reacts. Spain and France for example, which voted for Blatter, have some explaining to do”, he said in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant on Wednesday.

The king is dead

Van Praag was a candidate in the Fifa elections before withdrawing to back the Jordanian prince, but he declined to say if he’ll run again, with fresh elections to be held between December and March 2016.

Al-Hussein also called Blatter's exit “the right move” and also declined to confirm if he’ll run again.

“I’m at the disposal of all the national associations who want a change, including all of those who were afraid to make a change”, he told CNN.

Speculation on sports websites has identified other potential candidates: retired football players Luis Figo (Portugal) and David Ganola (France); Turkish Uefa vice-president Senes Erzik; former Fifa executive Jerome Champagne; and English football association head Greg Dyke.

But Platini himself is the odds-on favourite.

He “suits the role of president of Fifa better than anyone else”, Nikita Simonyan, the acting president of the Russian football union, said.

Russia will need the new president’s support amid concerns that its winning bid, to host the World Cup in 2018, could be overturned if the Swiss probe finds evidence of bribery.

Platini has in the past criticised calls to reassign the 2018 and 2022 (Qatar) cups or to boycott the 2018 cup over Ukraine.

Reforms

In the meantime, Blatter will stay on as acting president.

He said on Tuesday he will launch a Fifa reform process.

“Since I shall not be a candidate, and am therefore now free from the constraints that elections inevitably impose, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts”, he noted.

But according to the campaign group New Fifa Now, the body “has shown it cannot be trusted to reform itself”.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, it called for an independent reform commission.

“What is needed is systemic change to the governance arrangements, not shuffling of deck chairs”, said the group, which launched its appeal for a Fifa overhaul in the European Parliament last January.

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