SOCHI: Sepp Blatter, in Sochi in his role as a member of the International Olympic Committee, has offered a clear hint that one of the last items on the FIFA reform agenda will remain frozen in time writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
A raft of governance reforms were approved last year by the international football federation’s congress in Mauritius. However no consensus could be reached, in informal talks on the thorny topic of age and/or term limits.
The issue was postponed for a decision at the 2014 congress in Sao Paulo in June.
Blatter, 78 next month, and currently considering whether to run for a fifth term of FIFA president, spoke up on the age limit theme during a debate in the IOC Session [congress] in Sochi.
He said: “We concluded in FIFA that imposing an age limit is an act of discrimination. What needs to be changed can be done by a democratic way. Simply not elect a member not because of age but because they are not able to do the work. It is not normal to impose age limits.”
Changes implemented in the wake of the Salt Lake City Games bribery scandal mandate that IOC members must resign at 70 if they joined from 1999 onwards. Members who joined before 1999 have an age limit of 80.
Blatter became ex-officio IOC member in 1999, before the new rules came into force that year, following his election to the FIFA presidency the previous year.
A further contributor to the IOC debate was Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah, president of the Association of National Olympic Committees. Al-Sabah, who played a key role in the appointment of Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa as head of the Asian football confederation, suggested extending the IOC age limit up to perhaps 79.
During the debate Blatter said he objected to age limits because they were “discriminatory” – and discrimination, of course, is a delicate issue at the moment in both the football and Olympic worlds.
The fact that Blatter felt free to speak publicly indicated that he does not expect FIFA Congress to be asked to consider the concept of limits of any sort.
FIFA was forced to engage with governance reform after cash-for-votes scandals in 2010 and 2011 in both the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process and the subsequent presidential election.
Half of the FIFA executive committee has been refreshed since then with the breakthrough addition last year of three women members on the governing body.
FIFA’s senior vice-president is Argentina’s Julio Grondona who has been a member of the exco since 1988.