Inevitable Reform Candidate for FIFA President?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/30/2011 12:01:00 AM
Governance of sport should be of considerable interest to its followers given how much attention and money fans devote to sporting events. At the same time, let's just say that global governance of sport often fails the smell test on justifiable grounds. If there ever were institutions that could use standard prescriptions of transparency and fair dealing, the backroom world of sports politics is long overdue for attention.

Now, the words "FIFA" and "corruption" go together in popular discourse alike "America" and "bankrupt." Despite my tendency to favour new locations all over the world to host World Cups--especially in regions where they haven't been held before--you certainly have to wonder about how poorly some obvious bidders did. While us Londoners have major gripes about the cost and quality of public transportation here, London will host the 2012 Summer Olympics. So the UK sent Becks (David Beckham), Wills (Prince William), and PM Cameron (Cams?) to Zurich to secure the 2018 event--with nothing to show for as its bid was dismissed early. Also, despite hosting the 1994 World Cup well--the lack of on-field action isn't America's fault, obviously--the United States lost out to the rather daft choice of Qatar in 2022. Having been in the American and MENA deserts at the height of summer, I can only imagine what athletes will have to contend with--oddball promises of cloud climate control notwithstanding. ("But it's a dry heat.")

In the meantime, the political circus that is FIFA rolls on. Incumbent President Sepp Blatter is keen on securing a third term as FIFA president despite the controversy which continues to surround his tenure. His former ally, Qatari Mohamad Bin Hammam--president of the Asia Football confederation--is keen on unseating Blatter. However, I tend to believe that Hammam's bid would do little to dispel allegations of corruption at FIFA since, er, he promises larger giveaway packages to national member associations if elected:
Mohamed Bin Hammam, who is challenging the Swiss national [Blatter] in the June 1 vote, has said he’d double the $250,000 that each of FIFA’s 208 national member associations get each year. Blatter said only FIFA’s governing panel can change funding as he dismissed the offer from the 61-year-old Qatari, who runs Asia’s soccer federation. Blatter, 75, has run FIFA since 1998. “We’ve already made the budget” for 2011-15, Blatter said. “If you give only money and you don’t control where the money is going, this is not a good gift.”
As a champion of lost causes--I supported rally legend Ari Vatanen's bid to succeed Mas Mosely as FIA president over that of Jean Todt (formerly Ferrari team boss)--I must therefore support someone who isn't Blatter or Hammam. Potentially, step forward the great Chilean central defender Elias Figueroa:
Former South American player of the year Elias Figueroa may challenge Sepp Blatter for the presidency of FIFA, the Chilean said on Friday. The 64-year-old ex-central defender said he was the choice of a group called FIFA Change who are seeking a new leader of world soccer's ruling body at the June 1 election in Zurich.

"This arose through a group in England and other parts of Europe who wanted to present someone as a candidate for FIFA and they called me to join a committee which later decided I was the most suitable person as a candidate," Figueroa told Reuters. "I really didn't want this to be known (yet) but the news came out. I'll only be replying on Monday or Tuesday and if I accept I'll reveal who my backers are."

Blatter, who succeeded Brazilian Joao Havelange in 1998, has said he will seek re-election for one more four-year term before retiring in 2015. The Swiss is already certain to be up against Qatar's Mohamed Bin Hammam, leader of the Asian Football Confederation, in the June 1 presidential election.

Figueroa, who shone for Penarol of Uruguay and Internacional of Brazil and played for Chile at three World Cups, said the support group had gained backing from a FIFA national federation. "If I accept I know I'll face a rather difficult scenario but nothing is impossible ... I know very good things have been done in football but we also have some proposals," said South America's triple player of the year from 1974-76.
A long shot, yes, but hey--we've seen upsets before in world sport. Certainly, FIFA's reputation has nowhere to go but up as a result of a long-overdue change.