It’s far too early for a victory dance, as FIFA’s problems are much bigger than Sepp Blatter.
Blatter announced Tuesday he’ll step down as FIFA president as soon as an Extraordinary Congress elects his successor. Blatter will continue in his current role until at least December, and what he does in his final days as FIFA president will shape the organization, and the sport itself, for years to come.
While Blatter has served as FIFA’s president since 1998, he actually holds limited power over the organization due to its structure and ways of governance. This key fact has been lost or ignored in much of the anti-Blatter hoopla of recent years.
FIFA’s congress (currently of 209 member associations such as the United States Soccer Federation) is the organizations legislative arm. It elects the president to a four-year term and sends him and also one female member to the Executive Committee as its representatives.
Blatter has used patronage to maintain political support in the Congress through the years.
FIFA’s 25-member Executive Committee wields significant power and influence as the executive arm of world soccer’s governing body. Blatter chairs ExCo meetings but he and the female member, acting on behalf of the Congress, hold just two of the 25 votes on important matters such as selecting the host nation of the FIFA World Cup.
Confederations such as UEFA, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, are separate entities to FIFA, which has no formal control over them. Yet, confederations elect 23 members to the ExCo, and their agendas, practices and loyalties don’t always fit those of FIFA’s Congress of member federations. In short, FIFA doesn’t run the confederations. The confederations run FIFA’s Executive Committe.
These historical tensions have led to political bloodletting for decades, and Blatter is the latest victim. The United States’ corruption and bribery indictments have centered around crimes committed on confederation (as opposed to FIFA) business and taken down a number of past and present ExCo members.
Blatter is correct in saying he’s not to blame for the scandal, but the Confederations have enough ExCo votes, anti-Sepp momentum and the authority to call an Extraordinary Congress and put a new presidential election on the agenda. They could have done so every few months until Blatter, 79, decided to walk away.
The reforms Blatter spoke of at Tuesday’s press conference could change FIFA forever.
“The Executive Committee includes representatives of confederations over whom we have no control, but for whose actions FIFA is held responsible,” Blatter said. “We need deep-rooted structural change.
“The size of the Executive Committee must be reduced and its members should be elected through the FIFA Congress. The integrity checks for all Executive Committee members must be organised centrally through FIFA and not through the confederations. We need term limits not only for the president but for all members of the Executive Committee.
“I have fought for these changes before and, as everyone knows, my efforts have been blocked. This time, I will succeed.”
Blatter is trying to smash the Executive Committe and bring it under the control of 209 federations, which will reap and control a greater share of FIFA’s vast wealth. He already helped take away ExCo’s power to choose the Men’s World Cup’s host nation. Naturally, Blatter has created numerous and powerful enemies with his efforts.
If Blatter can’t push these reforms through FIFA by the time the Congress elects his successor, then we’re stuck with the same old FIFA, corruption and scandal.
Good luck, Sepp. After that, good riddance.
Thumbnail photo via Walter Bieri/Keystone/The Associated Press