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A THORNY ISSUE: What’s politics’ role in FIFA scandal?

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: What’s politics’ role in FIFA scandal?

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HOW BIG A ROLE has politics played in the ongoing FIFA scandal and will continue to be an integral part in the mix in the future?

This, I think, is a question that has to be part of the conversation as football’s governing body fights to save its public image and restore its prized brand to acceptable standards.

I will state upfront that the politics should be divorced from blatant wrongdoing as I don’t want to be seen as if I’m in support of the alleged racketeering and money laundering among those accused recently of such acts.

For instance, Jack Warner’s name has been mentioned in some instances previously, long before the widespread allegations about corruption among some of FIFA’s members came to a head last week in Switzerland.

However, I think it is true to say that allegations intensified once the decision was made through a democratic voting process to hand Russia and Qatar the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, respectively.

After all, England was favoured to win the 2018 bid and if not the United States, surely Australia should have gotten the nod over Qatar, which has no great football tradition, in respect of the 2022 allocation.

In essence, Russia and Qatar were the surprise victors over much more fancied opponents.

There was talk immediately after the vote that there was a sense of betrayal particularly in England’s case. Warner, for whatever reason, bore the brunt of England’s sour grapes because it was alleged that he didn’t place his vote where it was promised.

But even so, how would anyone know which way Warner and other CONCACAF members voted if the ballot is supposed to be secret? And could the CONCACAF vote solely influence the outcome of the ballot anyhow?

Mighty England was shamed and it seems that up to now they haven’t gotten over their disappointment and grief.

Sepp Blatter’s dynasty has been sustained and cemented through the support he gets from the members of the developing countries in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Central America.

He has stood by FIFA’s mandate to let Russia and Qatar retain the World Cup despite the objections coming mainly from Europe based on what they saw as a tainted voting process with corruption at the apex of its execution.

Is it possible that because Blatter’s detractors haven’t been able to pin him to any corrupt practices, they have set out on a witch-hunt to get at his perceived allies?

Truthfully, as Warner has stated, can we identify any member from the developed countries of FIFA who has been targeted in the ongoing investigations?

Oh, there’s former CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer who, lest we forget, turned informer after he was fingered as part of this region’s grouping who allegedly took bribes as part of the cash for votes scandal which erupted after Russia and Qatar were given green lights to host World Cups.

Who else?

Not only that, the United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the investigations have been in progress for over 20 years and she was part of the process.

Why, it can be asked, weren’t these mass revelations brought to light before the recent congress where Blatter was given an unprecedented fifth term?

In my opinion, it seems a bit too coincidental.

Lynch worked as part of the investigative team before her recent posting, are we to believe she is the only law enforcement figure in the United States who had the balls to make the disclosures?

If that’s what it is, then she deserves all the praise that can be mustered because she would have to be seen as a woman of great courage. Not many people dare venture into a lion’s den and expose its alleged dirty linen in the way Lynch did last week.

However, the timing of her expose made it patently obvious to me that the intervention might have been planned to take away support from Blatter or even to have the elections postponed indefinitely.

On the other hand, the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, was all too willing to make a similar observation and his timing, politically, also comes under the microscope. Putin’s stance may have a lot more to do with the fear of his country losing the World Cup if financial impropriety was to be proven in the bidding process but more with the current isolation of Russia by the majority of those in the European fold because of developments in the Ukraine.

And what level of conventional politics can we expect in the Jack Warner situation from his opponents in Trinidad and Tobago where general elections are pending?

If political considerations are at the core of the allegations of corruption among some of FIFA’s members just to get back at those from developing countries who support Blatter, then the integrity of the system is flawed and that in itself can be seen as a crime against transparency and accountability by those who are calling for FIFA to clean up its act.

The CONCACAF Integrity Committee, chaired by Barbadian Sir David Simmons in 2013, cited Warner and Blazer for inappropriate behaviour in handling CONCACAF’s finances so due process has to be followed in this case and so too the current investigations in other matters.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist. Email: [email protected]