Early Doors

Too little, too late from FA

Early Doors

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The FA's decision to abstain from voting in the upcoming FIFA presidential election may seem like a principled stance, but in reality it is a step away from one of the biggest issues ever to face football at just the moment a breakthrough seemed to be on the horizon.

After the Panorama and Sunday Times investigations, after Lord Triesman making allegations in front of a Parliamentary commission and after the widespread condemnation at awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, it felt as though a tipping point was approaching.

A perfect storm was brewing, with conditions in place which could have seen a new president with an open agenda for reforming the game's governing body. The net is closing in on the Executive Committee members who allegedly sold, or at least tried to sell, their votes on who should host the World Cup for money or honours.

Removing one vote from the process still leaves over 200 in it. Nominating and actively supporting a third candidate would have at least given the dissenting voices a platform within FIFA's cavernous headquarters, bringing those accused to task in their own back yard.

The FA could have put their own man forward to stand against much-loathed current incumbent Sepp Blatter or his Qatari opponent Mohamed Bin Hammam. They could have backed the campaign made by American journalist Grant Wahl, who had pledged to bring transparency and equality to the corridors of power in Zurich. They could have endorsed the Change FIFA campaign and their proposed candidate, Elias Figueroa. Either of those candidates needed just one nomination from any national association in the world to be entered into the race and make their protest heard. Instead, the FA has chosen to stick its fingers in its ears and sing Abide With Me very loudly until the whole thing blows over.

FA chairman David Bernstein said in a statement: "There are a well-reported range of issues both recent and current which, in the view of The FA board, make it difficult to support either candidate.

"The FA values its relationships with its international football partners extremely highly. We are determined to play an active and influential role through our representation within both UEFA and FIFA.

"We will continue to work hard to bring about any changes we think would benefit all of international football."

The flaw with the FA's belated stand ahead of the vote on June 1 is that by refusing to vote they are removing themselves from the process and could see their position weakened in any subsequent discourse. Just as with the public electing its politicians, to pass up your right to vote is to waive the privilege of complaining about the consequences.

Blatter's response was to deny the fact that the FA was making any kind of stand at all, so limp is the gesture. He said: "(It is a) little bit strange when the number one association in the world cannot decide. The FA have two candidates in front of them and cannot make a decision which one to support.

"Of course, you can abstain but I explained to Bernstein the part FA has played in the development of football, specifically in the laws of the game, having organised FIFA and modern football." Well, that was nice of him.

Blatter looks set to walk the election despite actually having an opponent for once, with the majority of continental federations thought to be backing him. While he has not personally been implicated in any wrongdoing, he has overseen an organisation which is facing myriad serious allegations of corruption.

Only now is Blatter deigning to do something about it, announcing that the hitherto anonymous whistleblower who has accused Exco members Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma of being paid to vote for Qatar will be quizzed by FIFA. He has even opened up the possibility of holding the vote again should any wrongdoing be proven before the FIFA congress, which would give Morgan Freeman the chance to get his lines right for the USA bid at the second time of asking.

"We must know if the allegations are true or not true or unproven. If they are not true, then this case is over," he said (Blatter, not Freeman).

"Then we will see which instrument will work, it is of paramount importance that we have this situation clarified on the 27th (of June).

"The (FIFA) ethics committee is already alerted and alarmed - they are not just lying on the beach - and the members will come for the congress and can convene at very short notice."

It is a good piece of electioneering by Blatter to open up the chance of discrediting Qatar - five months after they won the right to host the 2022 finals - just as he is about to face his Qatari opponent in a presidential election.

It is important to make the distinction between the current allegations levelled at Hayatou and Anouma and those which saw Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii banned by FIFA. The latter pair were struck off after a separate investigation alleged they had accepted bribes for votes in the 2018 ballot. To date, no one has faced any criminal charges for anything to do with the World Cup votes.

If there is any crumb of comfort from this whole mess, it is that it should all make a decent TV movie one day.

Of course, all of this should not distract from the dire need for the FA to get its own affairs in order. Notwithstanding all of the financial problems and petty disciplinary actions it gets itself involved with, its own national top flight is haemorrhaging money. Analysis of accounts from the 2009-10 financial year by the excellent David Conn reveals the 20 Premier League clubs made a combined loss of £484m over that period.

Still, best to keep busy with things like fining players for swearing on Twitter, and not think about it.

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COMING UP: We will have video previews and team news for every one of Sunday's final Premier League fixtures, plus team news for all the other major leagues around Europe. You can also check out the final part of our exclusive interview with Birmingham boss Alex McLeish.

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And there is live coverage of the two second legs in the League Two play-off semi-finals. Follow live coverage of Accrington Stanley v Stevenage and Shrewsbury Town v Torquay United at 19:45.

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