KEIR RADNEDGE in Budapest
— Sepp Blatter promised FIFA Congress in the Hungarian capital that, by the end of the game’s annual conference, the world football federation would be back in calm waters after the storms of last few corruption-scarred years.
In his opening remarks FIFA’s president recalled events of a year ago in Zurich when he was re-elected unopposed for a fourth term amid the furore following a World Cup bid vote-rigging scandal and bribery allegations which resulted in the departure of two vice-presidents in Jack Warner (CONCACAF) and Mohamed Bin Hammam (Asia).
Blatter said: “One year ago I underlined with you the need for FIFA not to have a change but to adapt our organisation, and especially its governance, to modern times.
“I compared our institution to a boat which was sailing along not always very calm waters and I’m sure with your help at the end of the Congress we will have brought back our boat in to the haven, a port of tranquility.
“It is a question of confidence and trust and when you re-elected me last year I said we have to go forward. We did it, together with the executive committee of FIFA – your, our, government – starting with different meetings and steps forward.”
Blatter said that the roadmap to reform “has been respected” with one part to be approved today and “the big part” by next year’s Congress in in Mauritius.
He reported that FIFA’s finances were “so comfortable we can propose to the whole family a player insurance for all matches on the international calendar.”
In his subsequent presidential address, Blatter reviewed the reform process, starting with the decisions to revert World Cup awards to Congress, the creation of various task forces plus “a committee for solutions to tackle problems and find the right solutions.”
He permitted himself a brief digression to wonder whether the football 2014 task force chaired by Franz Beckenbauer might come up with an improvement on the use of penalty shootouts to decide a drawn cup tie.
Returning to his main theme, Blatter said: “We are on the right track because, besides the reforms, we also worked on the protection of the game . . . so, we can say at the end we have made a big, big step forward.”
Blatter touched a brief negative note when he referred to Brazil’s troubled preparations to host the 2014 World Cup. He said: “It’s not all so easy as we hoped it would be but we can trust the government and football in Brazil for the organisation of the World Cup and the Confederations Cup.”
After one last appeal for unity, Blatter concluded by exhorting delegates from FIFA’s 208 members: “Let us go forward together to a brighter and better future.”
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