KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Sepp Blatter, after years in which he appeared impervious to the increasing concern about the leadership of FIFA, has finally acknowledged “popular outrage” directed at the world football federation.
However Blatter, writing his usual column in The FIFA Weekly, has sought to shrug off any executive responsibility and deflected it at the members of the executive committee in what appears to be setting up the battle lines to reduce the power of his successor – whoever that may be, whether Michel Platini or Sheikh Ahmad or a compromise candidate.
Over the past few years shifting the blame to the exco has become a repetitive theme from the 79-year-old Swiss as if he had been unable to employ the power of patronage of his own position to control the exco – except, of course, when he needed to call up the necessary votes for his latest pet project.
The exco meets on Monday , July 20, in Zurich to decide the date of the election – probably in December or January – to elect his successor.
But Blatter hinted, as he did in his departure speech, that he wants to use the extraordinary congress to force through further reforms.
This may prove controversial. There is certain to be resistance to the idea that a hastily-outward-bound president should set new governance rules for his successor.
Not that further reforms – indeed, something close to a root and branch restructuring of the political management systems – are not needed. But Blatter served notice in his column that he will be laying some sort of complex proposal on the table on Monday week.
He said: “The executive committee meeting will determine the timetable leading to the extraordinary elective Congress. In European circles there is only one topic: the presidential election.
“However, the reforms we have not yet been able to implement are in fact more important. This requires a clear statement of intent on the part of the executive committee and Congress.”
Blatter, breathtakingly and cheekily, then adds: “We need to change structures so they are above reproach. The executive committee should be elected and controlled by Congress. We require independent integrity checks – for example by the Ethics Committee. This would give the executive committee more authority and responsibility.”
The last sentence appears contradictory; despite a further reiteration of his criticisms of the exco Blatter wants it to have more power.
“Fair play, please . . .”
Setting out again the dysfunctional nature of the governance system, Blatter said: “The popular outrage concerning FIFA in recent weeks has mainly been directed at me personally. I have no problem with this. I can defend myself.
“However, I would appeal for fairness: I bear no responsibility for members of a government I have not myself elected. The FIFA president must work with the people allotted him by the confederations. I therefore also bear no responsibility whatsoever for the behaviour of these exco members on their home turf.
“We cannot change people’s morals, but we can better control human behaviour. This is where I will invest my energy.
“I am against age limits for officials, because they are an encroachment on personal freedom. If you feel someone is too old, you do not vote for them again. What I am definitely striving for is term limits for those in office.”
In a dramatic conclusion directed more at the current exco than at his readers, Blatter added: “Filling the office of president is ultimately only a sideshow, albeit staged in a glaring spotlight. I hope the Congress is not blinded by this, because FIFA’s future is at stake, no more and no less.”
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