KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY — FIFA’s latest crisis could not have come at a more opportune time for Europe’s most powerful leagues and clubs.
With the authority of the world federation in tatters, they can drive a much harder bargain than they had expected over the timing of the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar . . . which means late spring.
The willingness of the European Club Association and, to a lesser extent, the European Professional Football Leagues, to play hardball has already been demonstrated.
Milan’s Umberto Gandini, ECA’s senior vice-president, has openly challenged FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s stated preference for November/December while Richard Scudamore, ceo of the English Premier League, has reiterated a demand that the 2022 finals remain exactly in their original, air-cooled slot.
Thus far their words were considered mere sabre-rattling in the negotiating process. But now, and with 75pc of the World Cup players are contracted to European clubs, they can see a FIFA leadership in disarray.
It’s not only that Michael Garcia wants Hans-Joachim Eckert to get tough, it’s that several members of the FIFA exco have been pointed up clearly, even by Eckert, as falling down on their duty to the wider worldwide game.
Eckert’s irritated taunt about obstructive “very senior members” of the exco and barely-veiled references to minimal cooperation from Russia and Portugal/Spain raise questions about the credibility in FIFA office of Vitaly Mutko and Angel Maria Villar, Russian Sports Minister and long-time Spanish FA president.
Hence, with the exco under fire from within its own walls, FIFA’s ability to order the clubs to accept a winter World Cup is in danger of vanishing over the Swiss mountains.
In case Blatter & Co had any doubt, German league president Reinhard Rauball stepped up the pressure only hours after Garcia’s attack on Eckert.
Rauball, 67, told German magazine Kicker: “This was a serious attempt to examine in detail how the World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar. But the result has been a communications meltdown and shaken the foundations of FIFA in a way I have never seen before.
“Two things are essential: the full outcome of the Ethics Committee process must be published as soon as possible but so must the investigatory report of Mr Garcia to make it clear what was recommended and how it has been treated.
“Also, we need to know what has been left out. That has to be made public. It’s the only way FIFA can confront the way it has completely lost credibility.”
The Qatar timing process had reached a stage where FIFA had hoped to have a recommendation agreed for approval by the exective committee in March. This must now be open to doubt given this week’s events.
Anything less than clarity and publication of the Garcia report steps and Rauball had no doubt about the next step.
He said: “If all of that does not happen and this crisis is not resolved in a credible manner . . . then one option, which would have to be thought about seriously, is whether UEFA should step out of FIFA.”
That would generate the stuff of nightmares at FIFA . . . broadcasters and sponsors demanding their money back.
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