Early Doors

FIFA not fit for purpose

Early Doors

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FIFA is no longer fit for purpose. After an extraordinary week of allegations and counter allegations made by some of football's most trusted and respected guardians (don't laugh too hard), the governing body erupted into full-on internecine warfare in Zurich on Sunday.

Of course, one should always assume innocence until guilt is proven - and innocent is exactly what Sepp Blatter is after an exhaustive two-day investigation - but the sheer weight of corruption allegations and the fact the organisation finds itself being torn asunder by civil war surely dictates that it cannot function as, ideally, it should.

Laughably though, FIFA still appears determined to press ahead with Wednesday's presidential election. That's right, the election between the man who for 13 years has had this great game entrusted to him and has presided over arguably the most severe degradation in its history and, er, no one.

Frankly, ED suspects that Zimbabwe has orchestrated more appealing elections.

Blatter's only challenger, Mohamed bin Hammam, pulled out of the race late on Sunday night after it was alleged he offered bribes to officials from the Caribbean Football Union in order to secure their votes. However, Bin Hammam made clear that his decision should not "be tied to the investigation held by the FIFA ethics committee".

Bin Hammam said he withdrew his candidacy in order to preserve FIFA's reputation, or what was left of it. "I cannot allow the name that I loved to be dragged more and more in the mud because of competition between two individuals," he said. "The game itself and the people who love it around the world must come first."

But if he had not taken this selfless measure to safeguard FIFA's authority, then Sunday's findings by the ethics committee would have forced him to do so in any case.

A barely believable day in Zurich witnessed a rare glimpse of transparency from the governing body as a dramatic press conference confirmed that both Bin Hammam and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner were temporarily suspended, pending further investigation into the alleged bribery in the Caribbean. "We are satisfied there is a case to be answered," said Petrus Damaseb, deputy chairman of the ethics committee.

The president himself, though, was left standing, his coronation in Wednesday's election apparently guaranteed despite his organisation heading down a path of mutually assured destruction. Blatter did not fall foul of ethics codes despite allegations that he was aware of Bin Hammam's intended payments, but still sounded apologetic.

"I don't know what's going on in the next days, but in general it's my opinion it's very, very bad," Blatter said. "I do not wish to comment in detail but simply to say that I regret what has happened in the last few days and weeks. FIFA's image has suffered a great deal as a result, much to the disappointment of FIFA itself and all football fans."

But, incredibly, the story does not end there. Warner, furious at finally being pulled up by his paymasters, brought the "football tsunami" he had promised to bear. Not only did he claim that FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke had sent him an email stating that Bin Hammam "thought you can buy FIFA as they [Qatar] bought the WC [World Cup]" - a sensational allegation in itself - but Warner also turned on his long-term ally, Blatter.

According to the FIFA vice-president, FIFA's president made a gift of $1 million to Warner's CONCACAF federation to "spend as it deems fit". According to Warner, UEFA president Michel Platini complained about the payment because the president did not have permission from the finance committee.

Suddenly Warner has been transformed into the whistleblower, itself a condemnation of how far FIFA has fallen. Now he, of all people, is casting himself in the role of the great reformer, declaring "Blatter must be stopped". When Jack Warner no longer considers you suitable for office, you know something is seriously amiss. Warner himself is consulting lawyers over the legality of his suspension.

ED cannot help but fear that further developments are likely, and Blatter has called a press conference in Zurich for 17.00 UK time on Monday. This very public of rows is being played out due to very personal vendettas and all parties concerned clearly have vested interests to protect.

But step away from the goings on in Zurich, and the specific political machinations of football's governing body, and what emerges is a picture of an organisation that has begun to eat itself. A carcass starved of any respectability that has started to cannibalise its own limbs.

This, the organisation that protects the legacy of Pele, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff and Zinedine Zidane. The organisation that controls the environment that allows Lionel Messi to mesmerise the globe. The organisation that, in theory, protects and nurtures this wonderful sport, and the hopes and aspirations of billions across the globe.

Surely football can do better than a Swiss-based cabal bent on self immolation.

The only way to rescue any legitimacy is wide, deep, far-reaching reform, starting by immediately cancelling Wednesday's 'election'. After all, how could Blatter command any respect or authority if swept to power again in these poisonous circumstances?

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'll do it, I'll do it. I'll keep my word, I'll do it, but I'm not going to call the international press." - World Cup winner Bixente Lizarazu says he will stick to his pledge to run through the streets of Evian naked to celebrate the club's promotion to the French top flight.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Japan is suffering with some difficult problems. It's up to us to put in the effort to deliver some good news for the victims. It's our mission." - Inter defender Yuto Nagatomo dedicates the club's 3-1 win over Palermo in the Coppa Italia final on Sunday to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March. The victory, secured thanks to two goals from Samuel Eto'o and one from Diego Milito, was some consolation for Inter after their grip on the Serie A trophy was ended by great rivals Milan this season.

COMING UP: All the ongoing fallout from the FIFA controversy, while Paul Parker delivers his verdict on the Champions League final and our Pitchside Europe blog takes a squint at events on the continent over the weekend. Plus we have live coverage of the Championship play-off final between Reading and Swansea at 15.00.

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