KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Michel Platini has his pre-presidential whistle stop tour all planned. What remains to be revealed are his solid proposals, beyond the travel schedule, to rescue what the French president of UEFA likes to call ‘the mother house’, also known as world governing body FIFA.
Judging by the European federation’s contributions to the original reform process, as recorded by governance guru Mark Pieth, they may not amount to very much.
This may secretly please outgoing Sepp Blatter, Platini’s original FIFA mentor.
Also content will be many of the presidents and general secretaries of national associations around the world – think Europe, think Africa, think Asia, think the Americas – who are mostly content with the manner in which the international federation shares its World Cup largesse.
Despite the war of words which has erupted between Blatter and Platini – the latter was furious that the 79-year-old decided to stand for a fifth term earlier this year – it appears plain that the Frenchman remains Blatter’s best option for ‘continuity.’
Platini has never offered any hint that he favours a revolutionary restructuring of the executive committee or downgrading of confederations power, both of which have been mooted in the reform proposals from audit and compliance chairman Domenico Scala.
Certainly there is nothing practical offered in the platitudinous letter he sent to all 209 FIFA member associations declaring his candidacy.
He is also firmly aligned with Blatter in insisting critics are wrong to throw the accusation of corruption at FIFA itself when the label should be applied only to the behaviour of certain individuals.
All for one . . .
He thinks everyone involved directly and indirectly in the game, from administrators to players to the media and to fans bears a responsibility to unite in purpose (behind him, one assumes) to rebuild FIFA’s credibility.
Platini would not be a president in the Blatter mould. Blatter has been a 24/7 jet-setting chief, a style and time/life commitment which was merely an extension of the manner in which he had run FIFA during all his years as general secretary and king of the Zurich castle which Joao Havelange visited only a handful of times a year.
Platini would want to be a hands-on executive president, imitating the way in which he re-defined the leadership of UEFA. But the prospect of much more than a change of presidential style appears remote.
Pieth, the Basel professor hired to lead the original reform process – defined by many observers as “mission impossible” – between 2011 and 2014, will not be holding his breath in expectation of much more than a tweaking of the system should Platini be elected to succeed Blatter next February 26 at the scheduled extraordinary elective congress in Zurich.
During his tenure Pieth made no secret of his disappointment and irritation at the obstructive tactics of Platini’s UEFA regarding, to take one indicative example, the crucial issue of term limits.
Term limits muddle
In his retrospective Reforming FIFA, Pieth wrote: “The UEFA members were of the opinion that no term limits should be introduced for members of the FIFA executive committee (except for the president who is not elected by the confederations but directly by Congress), that Congress should not have the right to confirm confederation candidates delegated to the exco and that integrity checks on candidates shall not be performed by FIFA but by the confederations.”
He concluded: “This was a signal that the reform agenda was likely to be hijacked by rivalling interest groups within the organisation, supported by those in fear of losing their longtime privileges and well-functioning networks.”
The imperative of attacking the culture of ‘old boy’ patronage was one of the pillars of Scala’s latest proposals. Whether the new reform committee, led by Swiss lawyer Francois Carrard, comes up with a similar roadmap remains to be seen.
Platini will have little option but to address the practicalities of FIFA’s future after he emerges from the campaign shadows next month to publish his manifesto and embark on a circumnavigation of the football world which will take him around five of the six regional confederations before Christmas.
His travel schedule envisages stop-overs in the United States, Thailand, Japan, Myanmar and New Zealand as well as the an AFC awards gala in New Delhi plus an audience with African confederation executive committee members in Cairo.
Platini and rival candidates such as Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al Hussein and South Korea’s Chung Mong-joon are among invitees to address a meeting at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on October 28. He may find himself already committed elsewhere. In any case Platini, as favourite, has more to lose than gain from any such staged confrontation.
During his world tour Platini may surely also reveal how long he envisages sticking around at FIFA, should he be a winner next February. For example, will the price of a voting deal with the Asian Football Confederation be a one-term presidency?
Not that Platini could be averse. He has already said that, were he to lose in February then his current term as UEFA president would be his last in any case. This indicated that, at 60, Platini does not intend to spend the rest of life at the centre of the sports politics maelstrom.
One term or more, the prospect for a Platini FIFA is all about revision not reform, evolution not revolution,