16 Jun 2015

Now that Sepp Blatter’s gone, anything is possible in Fifa-land

T​his is how it shakes down. You get a call from the feds one day. “Come with us quietly, and help us out. The alternative – we show up on your doorstep one day with the press in tow.”

That’s one subtext of former Fifa executive Chuck Blazer’s plea bargain. Published overnight, it details how the 70-year-old football racketeer agreed to spy on his fellow Fifa executives in order to be spared the rest of his life in jail.

And thus the trap was set. A little information leads to a little more, until there’s enough to make a statement. Which was made with some fanfare in that dawn raid on Zurich’s plush Baur au Lac hotel a fortnight ago on the eve of Sepp Blatter’s “re-election”.

But now we know Mr Blatter will be stepping down. Don’t pay too much mind to the claims of his erstwhile adviser Klaus Stoehlker that he is considering running again, should no suitable candidate appear. Those close to Mr Blatter say the very opposite is true.

One of his oldest friends and long-time confidantes told me the president said he was “definitely looking forward to getting out of here”.

But if he will soon be out, who will be in? Trouble is, there is a vacuum right now, and into this void the great and good – if one can call them that, given the avalanche of tawdry revelations – are pouring their own vested views on who should take over at the helm of football’s governing body.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter Announces Resignation

Quietly jockeying

How on earth to find a candidate unblemished by a lifetime of working the backwoods of the venal and corrupt system of patronage we call Fifa?

For the longer you work in football, the more deals you do. And the more deals you do, the more exposed you become.

So right now senior figures across the confederations are quietly jockeying, either for a run at the job themselves or choosing which camp to sit behind. But consider this: many potential candidates are likely to yet come unstuck, given the likelihood of more damaging indictments or investigations.

Inconvenient truth

So I leave you with an unlikely but, according to one Fifa expert, possible path forward.

Sepp Blatter is now unburdened from running for office. Could he be the key to pushing through the next stage of reforms Fifa so badly needs?

Namely that at present, Fifa statutes dictate a candidate for president must have been working in football for the last two years.

It may be an inconvenient truth, but Blatter had already introduced some changes to the way Fifa does business. Yes, he massaged the rules to enable him to run for president again, having previously said he wouldn’t.

But he’s not the one-dimensional Blofeld baddie character many would have believe.

Says who? Says Swiss MP Roland Buechel, formerly a colleague of Mr Blatter’s and now the architect of a new statute dubbed the “Fifa law” – aimed, as it, at shedding light on the opaque financial details of global sports organisations.

And, says Mr Buechel, now that Mr Blatter is leaving, the Fifa president more than anyone is in a position to see that Fifa needs new blood. Outside blood. Blood that hasn’t been tainted.

Expertise and objectivity

Most successful organisations value a combination of both insider expertise and objectivity. But for as long as it’s existed, Fifa has been the ultimate insider’s network. Outsiders have not been welcome.

Which is the root of the problem. And why people have mooted names from the world of global diplomacy such as Kofi Annan as the only way to really ensure a clean break with Fifa’s murky past.

Speaking of which, there are some who say it’s inconceivable that Mr Blatter hasn’t already had some kind of discussion with the either the American or Swiss authorities.

Tomorrow morning the Swiss attorney general plans to hold a press briefing – an unusual event for the famously secretive home of Fifa.

We’re told not to expect “breaking news”. But who’s to know? If the last fortnight has taught us anything, it’s that anything in Fifa-land is indeed possible.

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