KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —– Sepp Blatter clearly enjoyed himself enormously today, discoursing about FIFA to a symposium at the University of Basel. But he would not have enjoyed what came next.
Firstly, students had heard from FIFA’s original reform guru Mark Pieth, who organised and chaired the symposium; after him came the world federation’s audit and compliance chairman Domenico Scala; and finally up stepped ex-president Blatter himself – suspended from football for six years for ethics breaches but not banned from delivering his opinions.
When Blatter had sat back down, however, Pieth called on Luis Moreno Ocampo to sum up the session.
Moreno Ocampo, a former prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, had been Pieth’s original recommendation as FIFA’s ethics prosecutor. However his appointment was blocked by two frightened fellow Argentinians in then President Cristina Kirchner and FIFA’s now-dead senior vice-president and finance chairman Julio Grondona.
Blatter may have regretted that they were no longer around to prevent Moreno Ocampo coming to Basel.
The 80-year-old had deployed the standard defence of his 17 years as FIFA president, that he had no control over people and events within the confederations and, in particular, within CONMEBOL and CONCACAF which have been focus of the United States judicial authorities’ FIFAGate corruption investigation.
Ocampo was having none of this smoke and mirrors.
He said: “The word from Mr Blatter was that he had nothing to do with what went on in CONMEBOL and CONCACAF . . . but he knew. He had nothing to do with allegations about the secretary-general selling [World Cup] tickets . . . but probably he knew.
“The problem is the silence. [Mr Blatter] was the manager of FIFA and, as president of FIFA, he had to give the example, even if he was not involved. So why the silence?
“If he didn’t know what was happening in FIFA then he was a bad manager. But he knew and decided to stay silent. To stay silent kept him in place managing everyone but moving the ball in the wrong direction.”
New FIFA president Gianni Infantino, said Moreno Ocampo, should heed the lesson of the fall of the house of Blatter: “Silence does not help to control corruption.”
Earlier Blatter had dealt with a string of long-familiar questions about the controversies surrounding his reign and which eventually brought about his downfall. Most weighty of all was the FIFAGate investigation which exploded last May with the arrest of seven senior directors in Zurich on the eve of FIFA Congress.
Blatter said: “All those people who have been arrested in Zurich or in other countries are Americans, from the south of America or from the northern part.
“For the time being there are no Europeans, no Africans, no Asians, no-one from Oceania — and the activities for which these people have been accused of bribery are activities they have made in connection with confederations.”
Blatter went to explain the limits of presidential power, saying: “FIFA is an organisation with 209 associations who are direct members. They elect the president but they don’t elect the government of FIFA.
“My government was not elected by the same entity I was elected by but by the different confederations. I have no influence on them and the activities they are doing in these confederations. This corruption and bribery in north and South America was in connection with the hundredth anniversary of the Copa America and not in connection with activities of FIFA.”
He also took a swipe at bodies which did not match FIFA’s ethics system , which he has attacked for turning on him.
Blatter said: “[European federation] UEFA still doesn’t have an ethics committee. The International Olympic Committee has a so-called ‘ethics committee’ but the decisions are made by the executive board and not this committee.
“So we [FIFA] are the only ones who have an ethics committee. But with one committee we cannot control all the 300m participants in our game.”
Blatter repeated his claim that, back in the autumn of 2010, Michel Platini had been ‘leaned on’ by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy to switch the four World Cup award votes he controlled from the United States to Qatar.
But there were also regrets.
Blatter acknowledged that FIFA had not been tougher in attacking matchfixing and discrimination. Closing stadia was an ineffective punishment for racist abuse.
“We haven’t had the courage so far,” said Blatter, still speaking as if he were in office, “to deduct points and then eliminate teams from a competition. Then [racism] will stop immediately.”
Finally, looking back wistfully over the last years, he conceded: “I don’t regret what I have done. But I do regret what I haven’t done. I have not done enough to bring FIFA back on the right track. Maybe I haven’t had enough power or energy.”
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