Surely Sepp Blatter isn't going to be elected unopposed?

by Simon Evans on Aug.25.2014
  1. Sepp Blatter is the most unpopular man in football - at least that certainly would be the conclusion you would reach if you read European newspapers, follow football opinions on social media or listen to the crowds who boo him whenever he shows his face in a stadium.

    Yet all of the signs are that the 78-year-old Swiss will be re-elected as FIFA president next year and probably without a serious challenger running against him. Indeed he could even be unopposed.

    So far only one man has put himself forward as a candidate for June’s vote – Blatter’s former deputy chief executive Jerome Champagne who bizarrely held a press conference in London in January where he outlined his FIFA reform program but then undermined it all within minutes when said he wouldn’t run if Blatter was also on the ballot.

    Champagne left the gathered media scratching their head. What is the point of announcing your candidature and at the same time conceding defeat to the incumbent?

    So far only one man has indicated that he thinks he can beat Blatter. UEFA president Michel Platini declared as such in March but a few months later and Reuters is reporting that the Frenchman is unlikely to run this time. An announcement from Platini is expected on Thursday and the indications are that he will decide against taking on Blatter.

    That would be a pity. For all his faults and questionable decisions – such as expanded the European Championships to 24 teams and introducing the flawed Financial Fair Play legislation – Platini is a rare example of someone in international football administration who is a genuine football person. He might not always (or even often) have the right answers but at least you feel that he cares about the game.

    Attend any FIFA (or confederation) congress and you will ask yourself, as you look around the room, how many of those in attendance have even played the game at a basic amateur level, let alone performed professionally? The game is overwhelmingly run by bureaucrats and failed politicians, most of whom have a shocking lack of knowledge of the modern game and an evident lack of passion for it. Those empty seats in the VIP areas at World Cup stadiums say it all.

    These are the men (and overwhelmingly they are male) who make up the strong majority in FIFA that Blatter and his potential opponents know will ensure the president continues in charge into his eighties. Outside of Europe, the rest of the confederations are in the hands of Blatter loyalists.

    UEFA is the only confederation where there is a clear opposition to Blatter and you don’t need to be Nate Silver to realise that means a European candidate is unlikely to beat the man who has been in charge since 1998 - and was General Secretary for 17 years before that.

    Yet what kind of message does it send to fans, to the players, the coaches, the youth football volunteers and all those who simply love the game and want to see it run in a clean, transparent and sensible manner, if Blatter is re-elected unopposed?

    What does it say about the game as a whole if the man who has been in charge throughout two decades of corruption allegations is re-elected with not a single voice of opposition?

    At the very least a protest candidate, such as Michael van Praag, the president of the Dutch FA or another figure from the European game, should present an alternative to Blatter on the ballott.

    After all the scandals that have plagued the game over the past two decades, if the football associations of the world can’t find a single person with the balls to stand up and tell some simple truths before next year’s vote, then they will deserve all the contempt that they will receive when Blatter is crowned again.

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