B O N I T A   M E R S I A D E S   in   S Y D N E Y

—- Oh dear. Less than three months in the job and already FFA ceo David Gallop is toeing the line on FIFA.

Last week Gallop (rightly) crowed about the fact that the most credentialed woman in Australian football, Moya Dodd, would be the Asian Football Confederation’s nominee to the FIFA executive committee for the one position allocated to a woman.

FIFA: Questions to ask . . . answers awaited

As well as being a former Matildas vice-captain, Dodd has been the sole woman FFA board member for six years, chair of the AFC legal committee, chair of the AFC women’s committee and an AFC vice-president – also a designated woman-only position – for four years.

Off the field, her most notable achievement has been working with exco member Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan to have the international ban overturned on women players wearing the hijab.

‘Significant step’

“Moya’s nomination in itself is a significant step for Australian football and indeed Australian sports administration,” said Gallop.

Indeed. It is wonderful to see an Australian woman nominated by a body in our region to sit at the top table of an international organisation.

But – hello – it’s FIFA.

Either Gallop hasn’t been taking any notice of what goes on in world football in recent years, or he’s already decided to take the path of least resistance – like most of his predecessors at FFA and, before that, Soccer Australia.

Gallop went on to say: “The FIFA Executive Committee is the most powerful and influential administrative body in world sport and having elected Australian representation would bring immeasurable status to our nation and Australian football.”

Really? Have our nation’s values been eroded that much that we need an appointment to FIFA to bring us enhanced status? Isn’t the UN Security Council enough?

But, on reflection, Gallop’s reaction is not a surprise.

After all, he is working for an organisation that didn’t want to nominate a third candidate for President of FIFA two years ago because it didn’t want to upset either Sepp Blatter or the now departed Mohamed Bin Hammam.

It’s an organisation that went on to vote for Blatter – when some other nations abstained – because not to do so would be an “empty gesture”.

‘Reform processes’

When FFA was called upon last year to show some courage of its privately expressed convictions about the level of FIFA corruption, it instead publicly expressed confidence in the so-called ‘reform processes’ introduced by Blatter.

Last year, the longstanding ISL bribe allegations about FIFA were proven beyond any doubt to be absolutely true – as some people had known for years – but Blatter said he couldn’t have known about an offence because it wasn’t an offence under Swiss law.

The Council of Europe gave Blatter short shrift, but now Australia hopes that we’ll gain some “immeasurable” global status by being part of the blue blazered gravy train that is the FIFA exco.

At least Dodd is guaranteed of more than the one vote Australia garnered last time we put our head above water in a FIFA contest. The exco’s designated woman’s position is voted on by the 209 member associations of the FIFA Congress, not the exco members.

As the AFC nominee, Dodd is guaranteed 46 votes. She will be up against the incumbent, Lydia Nsekera from Burundi who was co-opted to the role in May last year on the presentation of the first of FIFA’s so-called governance reforms.

Nsekera is president of the Burundi FA and also a member of the IOC executive committee. Nsekera sees herself “as another member of the [FIFA] family”  – which is precisely how Sepp Blatter likes it.

‘Family member’

Nsekera is said not only to enjoy support from Blatter and her home African confederation which has 54 votes, but also from Michel Platini and, therefore, UEFA which has 53 votes.

In Dodd’s favour is her capacity to play the role of ‘family member’ and the fact that she is a former vice-captain of the national women’s team.

Other nominees notified by close on January 31 were Paula Kearns from Oceania, who is a board member of NZ Football, and Sonia Bien-Aime from CONCACAF who is ceo of the Turks and Caicos Islands Football association.

Neither are expected to attract support from CONMEBOL or UEFA which are the only two confederations not to nominate a candidate.

More to the point is whether Moya Dodd really wants to put her reputation on the line by being the first elected woman member of FIFA exco.

Those who say that the best way to effect change at FIFA is “from the inside” are fooling themselves.

People with good pedigree, impressive cv and a personal reputation intact have gone before her and failed – seduced as always by the fabulous expenses, first class travel and the best seats in the house at any football game she wishes to attend.

Election congress

Blatter knows that an expense account estimated at $1m over four years, and a generous exco retirement scheme, is enough to buy silence and silence is golden. Just ask Geoff Thompson and Jim Boyce.

But if she is elected by the FIFA Congress in May, these are the questions Moya Dodd should be asking:

• How much do you get paid, Sepp?

• Why are Nicolas Leoz, Julio Grondona, Worawi Makudi, Jacques Anouma, Issa Hayatou and Chuck Blazer still here?

• How much has FIFA, or organisations on behalf of FIFA, paid Peter Hargitay? When? What for?

• How much do members of the Ethics Committee get paid? Can I see their expense accounts?

• How can we ensure that this ExCo is more representative of, and responsive to, the ‘forgotten stakeholders’ of the game – players and fans?

• Why don’t we publish all the minutes of the Executive Committee meetings online?

• When can I see the new guidelines for bidding for the 2026 World Cup so I can make sure they’re not custom-made for bestowing favours?

• And hey guys, when did you really decide to vote for Russia and Qatar?

The sad truth is, if elected, once Dodd got through her ‘induction’ into the very close knit ExCo family and understood – as she intrinsically does – that it’s better to be part of the gang than not, she might well ask the same question one FIFA insider told me most first-timers to ExCo do: “How many extra tickets can I get to the 2014 World Cup?”

The election for the FIFA exco women’s position will be held during the FIFA Congress in Mauritius in May.

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BONITA MERSIADES . . . is a consultant and writer, and has previously worked in strategic communications and policy roles in the government, sport and health sectors. She has extensive knowledge of domestic and international football as a former team manager of the Socceroos and Head of Corporate and Public Affairs with Football Federation Australia. She is a volunteer committee member with a local football club and with the Football Media Association.

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