By J Hutcherson – WASHINGTON, DC (Oct 20, 2011) US Soccer Players — Though some in Europe are treating the two-day FIFA executive committee meetings as Blatter's chance to make sure he's seen as a leader rather than a preservationist, that's very Eurocentric thinking. Blatter's legacy was cemented when he pushed for the World Cup to be played in Africa, and that's going to be his big picture moment looking back years from now.
Blatter understood long ago that being the FIFA president is a popularity contest, and he's still popular in parts of the world that aren't Europe. He also has enough of the FIFA electorate to hold whatever line he needs to once he announces FIFA's reformation project.
For those expecting sweeping change, it's worth wondering how much change FIFA is really capable of instituting. We've already seen that the ethics and disciplinary committees have no trouble removing people in positions of power whether through suspension or life bans. That alone should cast a chill over the 208 people with voting rights, not to mention the subset that holds seats on an embattled executive committee.
It's simply not a good time to get called out for anything in the wide world of soccer politics. FIFA's actions have made it clear that they're a fan of blaming the individual, though they now have a long list of bad actors to deal with. That's threatening the coming reform announcement, with rumors swirling that FIFA will begrudgingly release who took what from the collapse of their marketing partner a decade ago.
That particular sideshow does very little for the current situation except potentially knock more people out of power. For FIFA as a whole, it means very little. We're seeing a sweeping change in the ranks, but the impact on the organization isn't what those swept out would probably have expected.
FIFA moves on, and quite well. But we knew that already. They shrugged off the ISL collapse ten years ago without it costing any of their members their positions.
In fact, FIFA ended up making as much money as they could've possibly needed through World Cup sponsorship. There's been no pressing need for austerity measures in a very long time, something that helped create the current problems. It's one thing to be in belt-tightening mode. Another when there's more than enough money to go around.
What FIFA is dealing with over the course of the next two days really is a question of too much. Taking too much on the part of some of its membership, the public potentially expecting too much from an organization with no pressing internal need to change everything for the good of the game. Spending too much time putting the blame on individuals while separating them from the whole.
All involved know there's a limited threat here to the group. It's the individuals needing to make sure they're above the kind of suspicion that's taken down their colleagues. Any reasonable human being would be somewhat fearful at this stage, yet they're supposed to be deciding on considerable reforms. Not exactly the best atmosphere for a revolution in how world soccer is administered.
Internally, that has to be addressed with more than a continued promise to weed the bad actors out. Up to a point – and one I would argue that FIFA has already reached – that serves no good purpose. The institutional memory of FIFA is important when the top of the power structure remains in place. That includes what deals were made, what extremes tested, and how business was done then and now. It's a control.
Without it, we get the justification that FIFA acted in a clear the bums out moment. But this isn't normal politics. The electorate isn't open. There's no indication that quick replacements at hand set on seeing through a new course for FIFA. It simply doesn't appear to work that way.
That has to temper any enthusiasm for an internally generated reform movement. FIFA did as expected and closed ranks. For all the talk of outside advice, we already know it's been extremely limited and just that – advice. The final say will come from that embattled executive committee and the incumbent president who won his reelection unopposed.
You might remember me writing articles last year about the need for a contested FIFA presidential election. It didn't look like we'd get one, only for a candidate to emerge that pushed a different agenda to Sepp Blatter's.
Mohamed Bin Hammam wanted to limit presidential power, put more decision making in the hands of the executive committee, and basically offered an alternative to how business was done at the highest levels of the organization. Blatter's response wasn't as substantive as it needed to be for the rest of us that don't have a FIFA vote. Instead, he talked about holding the line, 'black holes' and the anger of the established soccer nations when the game moved to embrace emerging areas.
There was never any substantive public debate, no working through issues to see what gets strengthened or weakened in response to a counterpoint. No sweeping ideas to rethink FIFA's role from either candidate. Even before Bin Hammam's meeting with the Caribbean Football Union, there wasn't much of substance outside of who would be making the same old decisions within FIFA.
In the greater scheme of things, nothing really changed. No big picture promises, no platforms to see through over the next four years, just onwards and upwards in an organization that isn't hurting for money or influence. It's into that atmosphere that these reforms will be presented. Bad actors pushed from the stage, those with things they would prefer not to be revealed stepping to the side.
With that in mind, why would anyone expect to see a new FIFA emerge from yet another executive committee meeting?
Comments, questions, solutions to problems that have yet to present themselves. Please, tell me all about it.