LONDON: David Bernstein returned from FIFA Congress in more positive mood about the state of the world governing body than he was last year writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Then Bernstein, attending his first congress as chairman of the Football Association, had created a stir by proposing a delay in the presidential election out of concern that the incumbent Sepp Blatter was the only candidate.
That brought a storm of criticism down on Bernstein’s head from senior FIFA figures who took the gift-wrapped opportunity to whinge about British football’s perceived ‘privileges’ such as four-way independence for the home nations and a permanent vice-presidency of FIFA.
However, on leaving Budapest, Bernstein declared that he thought FIFA’s reform programme demonstrated that the organisation and Blatter had “really seen the light” though much remained to be done.
Bernstein said: “I have always said the proof of the pudding would be in the eating but I must say I was very impressed today. I think the FA should take a little credit from having pushed this a year ago, we probably injected a little bit of urgency into the situation but we have got to be impressed.
“There is still much work to be done, and Professor [Mark] Pieth [reforms consultant] made it quite clear this is not a tree to pick cherries from, you have to embrace the whole package and we will see if that happens.
“Everything was so traumatic last year for FIFA that I really think they have seen the light and there is every evidence of real intent.”
Ironically, at a time when FIFA is still considering the concept of age limits for officials, Bernstein may shortly fall victim to a clause of that nature in the FA’s own statutes. This sets 70 as a statutory retirement age which would mean Bernstein standing down at the end of next season.
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