KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON —- Chung Mong-joon has owned up to the biggest regret from his 17 years as a vice-president of FIFA: Not having opposed the decision to run simultaneous bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The executive committee of the world football federation laid the warped foundations for years of scandal, corruption and controversy when it opted, in December 2007, to undertake a joint process.
Ultimately this threw the door wide open to what evolved into the worst crisis in the history of the organisation and one which, still today, has wrecked its credibility and prompted questions about whether it has a future at all.
Even before the vote on December 2, 2010, members of the executive committee had been suspended over corruption allegations. In due course, almost half the exco membership had either been suspended from football or run away from the game to escape sanctions.
Chung, a contender for the election to choose a new president in succession to Sepp Blatter next February 2, was a member of the exco at the time in his role as Asian vice-president of FIFA.
He is currently facing a 15-year suspension from the ethics committee over his own activities during the 2018-2022 bid process, though he insists he acted entirely within the rules and regulations in force at the time.
Looking back to the crucial moment when FIFA’s exco took the wrong turning by running two bidding competitions, Chung said: “That was very bad. I should have opposed that idea but I did not want to be understood as a person who opposed everything Blatter proposed.
“For example, after Blatter had become president in 1998 he made two very interesting proposals. One was to hold a World Cup every two years and the other was to experiment with increasing the size of the goals, making them wider and higher.
“I objected very much and those ideas were rejected. As for the two World Cup bids, I still feel very bad that I did not also oppose that. We did not have to take a decision about 2022 then. It was too early. Blatter was usurping the right of the next FIFA president.”
Asked who set out the proposal, Chung said merely: “You should ask Mr Blatter.”
Chung, who was speaking at the side of the Leaders Sports Business Summit 2015, had earlier regaled delegates with a vehement attack on Blatter and the president’s management style within FIFA which, he said, provoked “fear and contempt” among national associations.
The 61-year-old South Korean billionaire also derided the ethics committee as little more than an arm of “Blatter and his cronies” which was being used to try to derail his presidency bid.
Contenders for the election next February 26 must present at least five nominations from national associations on or before October 26.
Chung was hopeful about collecting enough nominations and his subsequent prospects – if he could surmount the ethics committee barrier, possibly with recourse to the Court of Arbitration for Sport or other legal and disciplinary bodies.
He said: “If I maintain my status of a candidate I think I can win. I have good support from my own continent, Asia, and I have good friends from Africa and the Caribbean so I am very hopeful as long as I can stand.”
Chung was critical last month of Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Bahraini head of the Asian confederation. Sheikh Salman had cast an approving eye on the candidacy declaration of Michel Platini, the French president of European federation UEFA.
However, Chung has not given up hope of shifting the goalposts.
He said: “Sheikh Saman is my old friend and I tried to meet with him in person but somehow I could not see him for several months. I recently sent him another letter telling him: ‘Let’s get together as soon as possible.'”
Chung wants to run for only a single term which would complete the current presidential mandate and thus last for three years three months to May 2019. He believes this would allow sufficient time to effect the culture and structure changes FIFA needs.
He said: “For the elimination of corruption I don’t think I need three years I need two years and then another one year and several months in which to work for the harmony of the entire football family.
“I understand several people have made proposals for a change of structure. They may have good visions but the most important thing is to understand the nature of the exco.
“Its function is like a parliament of a country, to ensure the checks and a balances of the executive itself. We should try to strengthen the exco, not weaken it.”
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