Sepp Blatter was hastily re-elected as FIFA President in the midst of the firestorm of corruption and bribery scandals hitting major figures within the organization. In the days that followed his re-election, Blatter decided it best to step down from his position, and that set in motion a new and “extraordinary” congress to be set within a six-month timeframe from December to April.
On Monday we got word of when those new elections would actually be held, as the FIFA congress met for an “extraordinary” congress to deal with reform and elections. The new FIFA president will be elected on Feb. 26, 2016 and about the only thing left to do is figure out who is running to head an organization badly in need of change.
One of the names we know won’t be on that list is Sepp Blatter himself, even though rumors of him “un-resigning” circulated earlier in the summer. He confirmed in two statements at today’s FIFA press conference that he will not be seeking election again.
Blatter confirms at least twice that he will not run in election, so put that to bed.
— Andrew Das (@AndrewDasNYT) July 20, 2015
Rumors have also indicated that names like UEFA president Michel Platini, former Portugal star and presidential candidate Luis Figo, Prince Ali of Jordan (runner up to Blatter this last election) and Alfredo Hawit, the new head of CONCACAF, could all be in the mix come February.
Of course, those names were almost all associated with the last election and Blatter was able to fend all foes off. Even the start of a massive corruption case against many of the executives around Blatter wasn’t enough to unseat the man.
Before leaving his post about nine months after his resignation speech in early June, Blatter appears set to work on legislation to “reform” FIFA as well. However, many are calling for him to step aside and let an interim group run the organization in his absence.
Given the reforms that are so badly needed, Blatter’s presence around any legislation is likely to taint any reforms made in the eyes of the public. The organization badly needs reforms that the public can get behind and Blatter’s continued leadership and association won’t help either aspect.
Prince Ali, who ran against Blatter and nearly won back in May has stood strong in calling for Blatter to step down immediately. That continued on the heels of this FIFA congress.
“President Blatter’s resignation cannot be dragged out any longer. He must leave now,” he said, via the BBC.
“An interim independent leadership must be appointed to administer the process of the elections, in addition to the reforms that are being discussed prior to the elections.”
That was never more evident than after FIFA’s announcement of planned reforms on Monday. After announcing reforms like enhanced centralized integrity checks for Executive Committee members, the introduction of term limits, higher standards of governance at all levels of football structures including confederations and member associations, as well as individual disclosure of compensation, Blatter continued to poor cold water on the reform ideas with his words and defiance.
One of the most badly needed of the reforms is the integrity checks for Executive Committee members and term limits. Yet, Blatter stood for a fifth term as President himself just a few months ago and his words on Monday suggested something no one wanted to hear about integrity checks — that being the need for a “neutral” organization and then saying it would be done internally by FIFA ethics committee.
Blatter on integrity checks: 'It must be done by a neutral organization. In this case it will be done by FIFA's ethics committee.' Neutral?
— Andrew Das (@AndrewDasNYT) July 20, 2015
Neutral and internal group are not exactly congruent terms, but Blatter’s hypocrisy and the ongoing need for him to step down immediately became even more apparent as the press conference went on.
Also among the reform legislation to be voted on in the next official FIFA congress is the disclosure of compensation. Given the support Blatter gave to these ideas on Monday, one would think Blatter would be all for full disclosure for himself. That’s not exactly what went on though, instead he went on the defense and refused to disclose his salary when asked.
While the reform proposals sound good on the surface, the devil could be in the details and as long as Blatter still controls the purse strings and the organization can reform really have any teeth to it? Given the defiance and details put out on Monday, trusting this group to get it right is a bridge too far still.
Get Blatter out of the process and show more transparency and actual neutrality in this process and reform can be much more believable to the public.