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THE INVERSE OF ZAPP BRANNIGAN

WEEKLY WHINE

For fairness, for honesty

As you know, FIFA is currently in the midst of a crisis. In the runup to last year’s voting on the 2018 and 2022 Men’s World Cup hosting duties, allegations of bribery were raised in regards to both votes, and two members of FIFA’s executive committee were suspended. Yesterday, two more executive committee members were temporarily suspended as the ethics committee investigates their potential involvement in bribery.

One of the suspended individuals, AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam, was running for the FIFA presidency but has now withdrawn, leaving incumbent Sepp Blatter as the only candidate. Blatter himself was under investigation, amidst allegations that he knew of bribes that were given but did not report them. The ethics committee has rejected those allegations.

The situation is damaging FIFA’s reputation, and the effects will linger even if the allegations are disproven. If they are found to be untrue, they will still have resulted in Bin Hammam’s withdrawal, and the ethics committee must then investigate whether anyone connected to Blatter raised the questions about Bin Hammam. If they are found to be true, of course, one must wonder how many other bribes may have been paid previously.

FIFA needs to clean itself up. FIFA needs to weed out the corruption. FIFA needs to find a strong, honest leader.

FIFA needs me.

Yes, I am announcing my candidacy for the FIFA presidency. I know it’s just a couple of days until the election, but I believe that I have a lot to offer.

First, I am Dutch. That means that I know the right way to play football. I can’t actually play it, but if I could, I would know how.

Second, I am not connected to the sport in any significant way. That means that I don’t have the many connections that those who have been involved in the game their entire careers, such as Sepp Blatter, do. And I can therefore bring detached realism and impartial judgment to FIFA.

Third, I love the sport and will protect it from overcommercialisation. From the Men’s World Cup to the Dutch Tweede Klasse Sunday East division, football at all levels is fascinating. I believe that the quality of the game should be one of FIFA’s top priorities. I believe that changes such as extending the halftime interval for more commercials or adding more matches to league schedules should be avoided, because they would detract from the dynamic and competitive nature of the beautiful game.

So if I am elected president of FIFA, what can you expect? There are several key points to my platform.

Total leadership. As I have said, I am Dutch. We are proud to have introduced the notion of total football, in which players are not fixed in position but are instead empowered – and indeed expected – to exchange positions as play progresses. As president of FIFA, I will introduce a management style inspired by total football, which I call total leadership.

Total leadership does not mean micromanagement or one leader’s overinvolvement in details. Instead, total leadership means that all within FIFA’s organisational structure are encouraged to maintain awareness of what is going on elsewhere in the leadership. FIFA, after all, is a team, and all members of a team, from its own employees to the member football associations of each country, should be working toward the same objectives. So, for example, when we are trialling rule changes such as additional assistant referees behind the goal lines, we should be coordinating with leagues all throughout the world, professional and amateur, to see who would be interested in participating in such experiments. If there is no interest, the proposal can be shelved without wasting everyone’s time.

As an added bonus, total leadership means that there are more people involved with every action. More people involved means more chances to catch any illegal or unethical activities that may occur.

Enhance ethics committee’s mandate. FIFA’s ethics committee deserves credit for reacting swiftly to the most recent accusations about Bin Hammam, Blatter, and others. But in Blatter’s case, the committee acted too quickly. According to ethics committee members, Blatter told them that he warned CONCACAF president Jack Warner not to issue bribes to Caribbean Football Union officials but did not know that Warner later did make the payments. The ethics committee should have further investigated why Blatter did not follow up with Warner to determine whether the payments were in fact made.

But looking beyond the current crisis, the ethics committee should be empowered to examine corruption throughout football. Allegations of bribery have been raised many other times over the years, particularly in connection to the awarding of the 2006 Men’s World Cup and of television contracts for FIFA tournaments. The ethics committee should be able to investigate past claims such as these, and under my presidency, it will be.

More stringent ethics code. Bribery is of course illegal, but other forms of corruption exist. For instance, in 2006, Warner was found to have improperly resold tickets to that Men’s World Cup. However, no punitive actions were taken; instead, he was ordered to return the amount by which he profited, nearly US$1,000,000. A clear violation of FIFA statutes such as this should be punishable by additional fines, suspensions, or both. If the current allegations against Warner are upheld, as FIFA president, I will ensure that he is banned from FIFA for life, for repeated unethical behaviour.

Sell FIFA House. Opened in 2007, FIFA House is a US$180,000,000 building of glass and imported shale in Zürich, Switzerland that extends five floors below ground. While it is true that FIFA has surely acquired many documents to be stored over its one hundred year history, there is no need for them to be stored in such a well appointed building. An ordinary Swiss office building would work just fine. Therefore, if I am elected FIFA president, I will move FIFA back into a regular building, oversee the sale of FIFA House, and return the proceeds back to the member associations.

Open voting on tournament hosts. The 24 members of FIFA’s executive committee have enormous power and no accountability; they decide nearly all FIFA matters on secret ballot. Therefore, as the first step in making FIFA’s decision making processes more transparent, I will ensure that all future tournament host decisions, including the Men’s and Women’s World Cups, youth World Cups, the Club World Cup, and the beach soccer and futsal cups, will all be made by the full FIFA congress with roll call voting of all 208 member associations. This will thwart corruption and encourage open and honest debate within each country: the associations will have no choice but to decide how they will vote in advance, for any surprise votes will instantly raise claims of bribery.

Social responsibility. FIFA’s motto is “For the game, for the world”, and during my administration, FIFA will live up to that motto. FIFA will expand its current programmes that support the developing world, expand its use of renewable energy, and expand its support of human rights all across the world.

Thank you for your time. I hope I can count on your vote on Wednesday.

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