K E I R R A D N E D G E i n P O R T L O U I S
—– World football delegates here at FIFA’s annual congress on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius will have only one ‘real’ issue on which to vote: who takes the women’s seats on the executive committee.
A major revision of statutes to incorporate two years’ reform work has been approved by the executive committee and will be voted through without dissent. This includes giving congress the power to choose a World Cup host and handing the British vice-presidency over to UEFA.
The only two contentious items would have been age limits and term limits for the president and members of the exco.
The vague manner in which both items had been presented reflected major divisions within the confederations. It also meant that neither had any prospect of securing a three-quarters majority. Hence a decision will be deferred until next year.
That has upset the Europeans for some reason but they are in the minority. If a statutes vote had fallen the issue could not have returned to the congress agenda for another four years.
Thus the drama tomorrow at the SVI Convention Centre comes down only to Item 15: Election of female member to the executive committee.
The manner with which this is being dealt illustrates the clumsy way in which FIFA is adjusting to a realisation that women have far more to offer within the game and its organisation beyond ‘only’ playing.
In 2011, in the midst of that scandal-hit congress, FIFA president Sepp Blatter suddenly produced a proposal to bring a woman into the exco, as if to demonstrate that he were serious about reform.
The proposal appeared as if spur-of-the-moment window-dressing but was duly followed through with the selection last year of Burundi’s IOC member Lydia Nsekera as a co-opted member of the exco.
This year FIFA has had time to organise an election for which there were four candidates originally: Nsekera, Australia’s Moya Dodd, Turks and Caicos’ Sonia Bien-Aime plus New Zealand’s Helen Kearns.
In March the exco decided that, apart from the one elected woman, two others would be co-opted into the exco. In fact, Kearns withdrew on the eve of congress, leaving just the three for three places but with the order and status still to be decided.
Only one ballot will take place. The winner will become a full member of the exco for a four-year term. Those finishing second and third, in that same vote, will be co-opted to the exco. However, they can serve for only one year (the equivalent of an almost pointless two meetings).
No-one appears clear on what happens next year.
In addition to this confusion FIFA appears uncertain as to whether the woman’s slot on the exco is a product of the reform process or just Blatter’s bright idea to draw some of the scandal sting.
Hence a three-page listing for the media of all the achievements of the reform process does not include any mention of the accession of a woman to the exco for the first time in FIFA’s 109 years.
Blatter then produced his usual gaffe at Wednesday’s Asian conference in commenting on the election. First he told his audience that “lady” was a more appropriate term than “female member” then he referred to Dodd as a candidate who was “good, and good-looking.”
This is far from the first time that Blatter – with what may be considered generously as a Swiss septuagenarian attempt at gallantry – has fallen over his words where women’s football is concerned.
Hopefully his script will have been adjusted in time for the vote.