I had no intention of returning to the topic of the FIFA Presidency this week, but events in Zurich over the last couple of days have left me with little choice. However anyone expecting a whining rant about the unfairness of it all is going to be disappointed.
Instead, I have been thinking the unthinkable – ‘Have we in the UK got it all wrong?’ It’s a tough question to ask, let alone answer, but when you consider that we couldn’t muster even 20 votes in support of our proposal to postpone the one-man election or that 186 out of 203 delegates voted for Herr Blatter’s re-election then I feel that it is time to stop navel gazing and take a long hard look in the mirror.
The United Kingdom already has an incredibly important position within the world game. It has four separate teams as member states of FIFA and each of those has a seat on the eight man rules committee. Can you imagine the reaction here if Germany, Spain, Brazil, Russia or the USA had similar privileges? Each of these countries are federations of constituent states all with as much right to compete as individual teams as Wales or Northern Ireland. And please don’t imply that the fact that because in the mid 1860’s the rules of the game were formalised here that this somehow gives the UK the inalienable right to maintain this position ad infinitum. Times change and change is not bad!
Make no mistake here, most of FIFA’s 208 members feel that the UK’s four team membership is by far a bigger aberration than any support, financial or otherwise, being given by the FIFA family to its more impoverished or needy members. If we are really serious about being a respected voice at the high table then it may be time for all four Home Nations to consider their positions.
It must be time for all four governing bodies to decide whether they wish to be inside the tent looking out or outside it looking in. The next World Cup to be played in Europe will not be until at least 2030 (China 2026 anyone!) and the only hope of it being played on our shores is if it is a UK bid featuring a single UK team. Heresy to some, but in reality the only way forward.
Hr Blatter now has an undisputed mandate for the next four years and before he hands over to M. Platini in 2015 he will have undoubtedly made some fundamental changes in way that both FIFA and the game is run. There will be goal line technology and there will be full member voting on all key FIFA matters (including the destination of future World Cups).
So this, I believe, is it. We are at a crossroads; we can get down and dirty with the rest of the world and play politics or risk a long period of International isolation. The wilderness can be a very bleak place and as this week’s events are an indication of world opinion then we know that we have few friends out in the football family. There is no appetite for any kind of break away organisation, so we really have no choice but to work with what is there. It will spell the end of UK football as we know it, but it could also herald the start of a new era for the game. One of inclusion not exclusion and one where every British player has an equal chance of representing his country at the highest level and possibly even in 2030 on British soil.