17 Nov 2014

Another day, another call to boycott Fifa

Fifa is in the spotlight after former FA chairman David Bernstein said European teams should snub the 2018 World Cup. But this is just the latest boycott call against world football’s governing body.

Fifa headquarters in Zurich (Getty Images)

It follows the row that broke out last week when Hans-Joachim Eckert, head of Fifa’s ethic committee, published a document clearing Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoing in their successful bids to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Michael Garcia, author of a much larger Fifa report on the bids, has said the Eckert version contains “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations” and intends to appeal against its findings. The Garcia report has not yet been made public.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Mr Bernstein said of his boycott proposal: “It sounds drastic but, frankly, this has gone on for years now. It’s not improving. It’s going from bad to worse to worse.”

Channel 4 News asked Fifa for a reaction to Mr Bernstein’s remarks but it declined to comment.

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Bidding process

His words are the latest in a series of calls by football administrators and former players for the world football governing body to clean up its act – and most stem from the controversy surrounding the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

In particular, the awarding of the latter tournament to Qatar prompted several questions –

  • Could a state as small as Qatar be expected to meet the practical and logistical challenges of hosting one of the world’s biggest sporting events?
  • How were footballers expected to play in summer temperatures averaging 38C and which can go 10 degrees higher?
  • Did the announcement in 2010 of the 2022 World Cup hosts have to be made at the same time as the 2018 announcement?
Fifa President Sepp Blatter (Getty Images)

Fifa President Sepp Blatter (Getty Images)

Foundations shaken

Mr Bernstein’s boycott call comes just days after Dr Reinhard Rauball, president of Germany’s football league, the Bundesliga, said Fifa’s foundations had been shaken by the row over non-publication of the Garcia report. Dr Rauball warned that if it did not appear, “one option that would have to bear serious consideration is certainly that Uefa leaves Fifa”.

In August the England footballer turned TV presenter Gary Lineker was similarly scathing about world football’s governing body. He told GQ magazine he regarded Fifa as corrupt and not fit for purpose. “The only way it might change is for the clean countries to turn around and say: ‘You know what, we are not taking part in your tournaments.’ But I can’t see it happening. There is too much at stake,” he said.

The former Spurs and Barcelona star singled out the 2018 World Cup voting process for particular criticism, suggesting it had been a “done deal”.

David Beckham reacts to England's failure to secure the 2018 World Cup

David Beckham after the announcement that Russia had secured the 2018 World Cup (Getty Images)

‘Symbolic sanction’

But it is not just the row over how the next two World Cups were secured that has sparked talk of boycotts. In September the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that the European Commission was considering a boycott by its members of the 2018 event as part of extended sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

Britain’s deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, appeared to endorse the idea, calling it “a very potent political and symbolic sanction” – although the German government said it was not a question for discussion.

And earlier this month Fifa’s own anti-racism adviser, the South African Tokyo Sexwale, told Associated Press that black players could boycott the 2018 World Cup because of fears over racism. He called on Russia’s President Putin, his “personal friend”, to intervene.

“For the Russian referation to be seen to be serious, we need them to take stern action,” Mr Sexwale said. “The world took stern action against South Africa (over apartheid). It was expelled from Fifa.”