By J Hutcherson (Dec 3, 2015) US Soccer Players - The day after CONCACAF and CONMEBOL let us know who would be handling the commercial rights for the 2016 Copa Centenario, the presidents of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL were both arrested. In another raid before a FIFA executive committee meeting in Zurich, CONCACAF president Alfredo Hawit and CONMEBOL president Juan Angel Napout joined their predecessors as they face extradition to the United States.
Both men had quotes in yesterday's Copa Centenario press release, focusing on the newfound wonder that is releasing a request for proposal for soccer rights. In other words, it took multiple scandals and back door deals for soccer's governing bodies in North, Central, and South America to adopt standard business practices.
"CONCACAF is excited about the opportunity to work with IMG and SUM, as they will play an integral role in building the commercial success for this historic Copa America Centenario. We are proud of the RFP process and the large interest it attracted in the marketplace. Involving global brands and worldwide broadcasters will ensure that soccer fans from around the globe will enjoy what we expect to be a once in a lifetime event." CONCACAF president Alfredo Hawit
"We are very pleased to have participated in this process along with CONCACAF and U.S. Soccer, for the commercial rights of Copa America Centenario 2016. This is the first time that CONMEBOL has played a part in this type of RFP process - which we will continue to implement in the future, starting in 2016. This commitment is an integral part of the governance reforms taking place at CONMEBOL in order to ensure transparency and benefit all our member associations." CONMEBOL president Juan Angel Napout
U.S. fans looking forward to Copa America in America next summer can breath easy; I'm hearing today's arrests will not affect US hosting.— Sam Borden (@SamBorden) December 3, 2015
So all still involved will get their pretty tournament, the one that's turned into such a problem for both Confederations. Of course, it's also a potential windfall whether through corruption or legitimate business. That's the big picture problem across the board. FIFA might be losing money this year, but there's always another World Cup, another cycle, and another opportunity.
For anybody wondering what these governing bodies are doing, it's a fair and open question. When it comes to the real work of reform, potentially setting aside another opportunity to make money while figuring out how to stop overt corruption, it doesn't seem like very much.
Just like FIFA, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL now have another leadership crisis that should bring the work of reform of the existing organization to a halt. Reforming any of the three as we know them is silly. We're past the point where it's not reform at all. It's everything from reimagining how to administer, if not govern, soccer to questioning why there's even a need for a president in an era of chief executives. It's closer to a renewal than a reform, either showing that these organizations should be more than schedule administrators or forcing them to solely focus on that job.
After all, it's that schedule and its inertia that's most important to the general public. Suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter might have taken the concept of soccer governance as far as it can go with rumors of the Nobel prize and outright saying that FIFA is the most important organization in the world. It wasn't then and it isn't now, but it would help if we could drop the pretense entirely. These organizations exaggerated sense of self doesn't help the game.
The game, brought to us by soccer politics, needs clarity. It needs leadership that doesn't have to weigh the risk of attending meetings where they might not make it out of the hotel under their own recognizance. It needs the international governing body to take responsibility for every decision maker and every decision. It needs a clear break between what is and what could be. It needs that at all levels, refocusing on the very basic.
Where this comes from should in no way be soccer-specific. We've seen how that works already. The insistence that FIFA presidential candidates have to have worked in soccer is just institutional hegemony. The institution is the problem, and breaking those ties is healthy.
This needs to happen is immediately. There have been enough committees, internal reform movements, and even the well intentioned derailed by the reality of the governing bodies. This is no longer a question of existing order accepting change. It's about imposition, making people uncomfortable, and doing the harder work.
Fortunately, soccer's politicians have almost gone out of their way to make it clear why it needs this. When the basic mechanisms are part of the problem, they can’t remain in place. Ask the basic questions in regions and countries all over the world. Do more than term limits and integrity checks. FIFA's insistence on no governmental interference has reached its logical limits. Interfere, force accountability, and then work toward a new international standard for national and regional governing bodies that fit into a revamped world organization.
None of this requires FIFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, or any of its committees, subsidiaries, or organization. It can happen without them if necessary. That's the existential threat all of those bodies seem to shake off with every new scandal or revised international outrage. We've been here before. Without substantive change, we'll be here again. That's what happens when soccer's politicians choose for us.
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him email@example.com.
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