There are many reasons to dislike the FIFA hierarchy, quite apart from the incestuous, corrupt environment it appears to have bred. In Blatter’s time in ascendancy, the ruling committee has become remote from its fan base and players, concerned only with greed and money, steadfastly refusing to see the light about the need for use of technology and hurling any number of referees at on-pitch problems instead. Hardly any wonder in that ivory tower that backhanders were apparently rife and secrecy maintained.
This is not an organisation that encourages involvement of fans. Ordinary delegates of a federation elect their own representative, who to all intents and purposes retains his patch as a personal fiefdom. Key decisions were, until FIFA’s corruption was recently rumbled, made by the committee alone, and they also elected Blatter, rather than all FIFA delegates. If you called it a rotten borough, of the type famously eliminated by the 1832 reform bill, you would not be far wrong.
This week brought new reasons to dislike this wealthy political operator, a dictator in the same sense that Robert Mugabe controls Zimbabwe despite everything. He retains his power base despite being universally disliked by everyone except his own coterie, but remarks effectively denying racism was a problem on the football pitch, coming soon after dismissive comments about homosexuals not being admitted to the world cup in Qatar, left fans and players alike incredulous.
Despite endless clarifications from FIFA and Blatter himself, his words were clear:
‘Taylor was reacting to comments made by Blatter in two separate television interviews when the Swiss leader of football’s world governing body was asked whether he thought racism on the pitch was a problem in the modern-day game. “I would deny it. There is no racism,” said Blatter. The Swiss told CNN: “There is no racism [on the field], but maybe there is a word or gesture that is not correct.’
Rio Ferdinand’s response by Tweets was even more unequivocal:
“What you said about racism in football spoke volumes of your ignorance.”
The timing could not have been more sensitive, with two enquiries already under way in the English Premier League alone about alleged racist abuse between players: of Patrice Evra by Luis Suarez and of Anton Ferdinand by John Terry. Blatter’s reaction gives a clear view that he does not have the remotest interest in stamping out racism, any more than he would encourage gay footballers or fans. What he does care about is his own personal power base and connections.
Calls for Blatter to resign have been brazened out before, and they will be again this time. For once, FIFA has a duty to see it is the laughing stock of the world, and to act decisively to restore the reputation of football, which Blatter personally is dragging through the mud.
After fruitless attempts to redefine his words, Blatter now apologises but says he will not quit. No honour among thieves, it would appear.