EXCLUSIVE by KEIR RADNEDGE —- Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the man whose warning FIFA ignored over Qatar’s World Cup bid, is considering running for president of the world federation next year.
Mayne-Nicholls, 53-year-old former head of the Chilean federation, was highly-respected head of the technical commission which assessed all the bids in the controversial 2018-2022 campaign.
He was just about the man to emerge from the process with his reputation enhanced after a thorough and considered piece of work. Mayne-Nicholls noted the challenge of the searing summer temperatures in the Gulf though, enticingly for many worried clubs around the world, he has also since devised a kick-offs schedule which could see all matches played in the cooler evening and night temperatures.
Dedication to the bid assessment left Mayne-Nicholls vulnerable to being ousted from the Chilean federation leadership.
Since then, however, he has concentrated on his own youth football foundation while also taking time out for a marathon car drive all around Brazil to support the Chilean national team at the World Cup finals.
So far only two candidates have declared themselves for the FIFA election in May next year: the one is incumbent Blatter himself who is considered the overwhelming favourite, the other is former FIFA official Jerome Champagne.
Michel Platini, the president of European federation, has been highly critical of Blatter but has declined to match his words with deeds and said he will seek next year only to remain at the head of the European federation.
Next spring will be challenging for Blatter and FIFA. It will bring decisive talks about whether to change the timing of the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 as well as possible disciplinary action over the bidding process.
Though most of the FIFA’s confederations expressed support for Blatter on the eve of this year’s congress in Sao Paulo, this was at a time when he appeared the only realistic candidate.
Any decision by Mayne-Nicholls to throw his hat into the ring could alter the theme of the presidential election from the continuance of a tired regime to the need to confront the demands and expectations of a post-Blatter era.
This is where the thoughtful candidacy of former French diplomat Champagne is vulnerable because he worked closely with Blatter for 11 years before losing one internal political battle too many.
This writer understands that Mayne-Nicholls is giving serious consideration to running for president though he will not make a decision in haste.
His ‘thinking time’ coincides with an increasing number of calls for Blatter to ‘do the honourable’ thing and step aside to permit new fresh thinking at the head of the world federation.
Only yesterday Michael Hershman, a member of the independent governance committee which led the compromised reform process between 2011 and 2013, urged Blatter to step aside.
Apart from the age issue – Blatter is now 78 – Hershman said: “I think that president Blatter should resign for the good of the sport, and for the good of the organisation. He was in a leadership position when all of the scandals happened and he hasn’t taken personal responsibility.
“It’s true that he hasn’t been found to have personal wrongdoing or been involved in personal wrongdoing but, frankly, my experience has been that when you have organisations that are continually under a cloud, one of the most effective ways to get out from under that cloud is to change the leadership.”
Hershman added: “There is new blood that’s come in and I hope one day that group will become the new leadership of FIFA. The most difficult part of change is cultural change and the way to get that change is to have new members.”
Issues which Mayne-Nicholls must consider include the very nature of the presidential job which has been defined by the 24/7 manner in which it has been undertaken by Blatter since his step up from general secretary in 1998.
This would not be possible for the Chilean for all the obvious reasons and will raise intriguing questions about the nature of a trusted managing administration he would need to put in place.
Also, he will need to set out his ideas for change clearly and succinctly while also building reconciliatory bridges within Chilean football. However the advantages for Chile and South American federation CONMEBOL in seeing ‘one of their own’ launch a credible presidential bid are obvious.
FIFA has had only one non-European president, Brazilian Joao Havelange, in all of its 110 years. CONMEBOL needs to rebuild its power base within FIFA after the recent death of influential Argentinian Julio Grondona and disgrace-enforced departure of ex-Brazilian football dictator Ricardo Teixeira.
Mayne-Nicholls might also capitalise on a general resentment througout the wider world game at the financial power of Europe allied to its dominance of slots in both the FIFA executive committee and the World Cup finals.
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