KEIR RADNEDGE in SAO PAULO: FIFA Congress voted decisively against the introduction of either an age limit or a term limit for officials.
This was a defeat for European federation which wanted an age limit and a term limit for the president alone.
The precise count – taken on a show or green or red cards – was not announced by secretary-general Jerome Valcke; it was clear and sufficient that neither proposal had come anywhere near the 105 votes needed for a simple majority from the 209 member associations.
Inevitably the decisions will be seen as a victory for FIFA president Sepp Blatter who is 78 and plans to stand for a fifth term in office next year.
However the issues were more complex than that. As one delegate from the Caribbean pointed out, age and term limits would represent a significant problem in a small association.
Age and limits were both proposed originally by the Independent Governance Committee which was led by Basel professor Mark Pieth and set up in 2011 to lead the reform process in the wake of string of corruption scandals.
No consensus could be achieved when the main raft of reform proposals were approved by congress in Mauritius last year. Limits were thus held over until this year without even the executive committee being able to agree an approach within its own members.
Theo Zwanziger, the former German federation president guiding the reform process, thus decided the only answer was to bring the concepts before Congress for a simple vote on the principle, not implementation.
Zwanziger addressed Congress on the reform process but failed to explain adequately the background or reasoning for age and term limits.
Very probably he knew already that both were lost causes.
Several delegates from developing world associations spoke against age limits on the basis that they thought this would bring Sepp Blatter’s presidental reign to an end. This showed merely that they did not even understand the principle of the mechanism being proposed since it would have included a transition system which would, in theory, have offered Blatter the prospect of continuing for another 12 years.
The vote on age limits saw only around 15 votes in favour and was thus defeated; the vote on term limits saw only around 50 votes in favour.
Surprisingly, no attempt was made to record the vote numbers formally. Zwanziger, in an oddly woolly comment for a lawyer, said later that the visual perception of the ballot results was sufficient.
Blatter told delegates: “Now we will not speak about this any more in FIFA.”
He denied later that the votes had anything to do with his own possible interest in running, at 79 next year, for a fifth term as president of FIFA.
Blatter said: “This had nothing to do with the presidency of FIFA. This was part of the process for the reform which started in 2011 and it has been discussed several times with all the stakeholders [in] the confederations and national associations and they came up with one specific proposal.
“With the age limit it is generally accepted that an age limit is discrimination in all activities, not only sport.
“The only valid proposal for a limit of mandates came from one confederation but they said it is only valid for the FIFA president and this has been rejected two years ago by all the other members of the exco and also by the other confederations.”
That proposal, from European federation UEFA, had been to limit to terms only the FIFA president but not the members of the executive committee – all of whom are voted in place by the confederations.
**Moya Dodd (Australia) and Sonia Bien-Aime (Turks & Caicos) were co-opted on to the FIFA executive committee as women’s game representatives for a further year until the 2015 Congress in Zurich on May 28 and 29.