Blind eyes and closed ranks at the crazy court of Fifa's Sepp Blatter
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Buradasınız >> Ana Sayfa IN ENGLISH General Issues Blind eyes and closed ranks at the crazy court of Fifa's Sepp Blatter

Blind eyes and closed ranks at the crazy court of Fifa's Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter Fifa Zurich

To make sense of four tumultuous days at Fifa's congress in Zurich, borrow Sepp Blatter's favoured metaphor, the organisation's president likening of world football's governing body to "un bateau" – a ship – "in difficult, troubled waters", and navigate straight from beginning to end. Sail over the intervening highlights – Blatter's embattled "Crisis? What is a Crisis?" press conference, Jack Warner's threatened "tsunami" of allegations against Blatter which went curiously quiet, Jérôme Valcke's email that Qatar "bought" the 2022 World Cup, David Bernstein's measured protest vote for the English Football Association and, of course, that opening ceremony of incomparable kitsch, featuring Grace Jones, a Swiss juggler and a hammered dulcimer.

The start, last Sunday, was when Mohamed bin Hammam, the sole challenger to Blatter for the presidency, suddenly withdrew his candidature. In his statement the Qatari said it was not because of the charges laid against him and Warner, the president of Concacaf, that they bribed representatives of 25 Caribbean associations with stacks of $40,000 in cash to vote for Bin Hammam. The withdrawal led to reports that Bin Hammam had edged ahead of Blatter in the vote and had been pressed to withdraw by the Qatari government after it was told Fifa might reopen the 2022 process, reports denied by Qatar and Fifa.

Later on Sunday Bin Hammam and Warner – at a press conference at Fifa's $100m headquarters, on a hill above Zurich, an echoing, steel-clad office block, set in rolling rose gardens, ringed by football pitches – were suspended by Fifa's ethics committee.

The end, three days later, at 6:10pm in Zurich's Hallenstadion, came when Blatter, the lone candidate, was duly re‑elected president. Reaching this point, bouquet of flowers in hand, to a chorus of trumpets, had been the week's true business all along.

In his speeches Blatter did acknowledge the serial corruption scandals, admitting they had done "great damage for the image of Fifa" and said repeatedly he is committed to reform.

Yet the detail of what happened, the scapegoating of the English FA and the English media, and Blatter's evolving descriptions of what reform may look like, betrayed an organisation that did not appear to possess either the will or the culture to change – more like four more years of business as usual.

The story of Warner's and Bin Hammam's alleged cash-for-votes afternoon in Port-au-Prince's Hyatt Regency is still encased in intrigue. Bin Hammam reported Blatter to the ethics committee, claiming Warner told the president they would be offering cash and that Blatter had approved it. Blatter agreed that Warner had given him advance notice but, according to the ethics committee's Petrus Damaseb, told Warner not to hand out the money.

Warner denied ever having that conversation, which made it odd that both Bin Hammam and Blatter said he had. So with Blatter admitting to prior notice, the meeting in Trinidad on 10 May, three weeks before the election, produced for the first time a whistleblower from within Fifa's executive committee, the Concacaf secretary general, Chuck Blazer. The evidence the American gathered led to the suspension of Bin Hammam, Blatter's sole challenger.

Damaseb said there was sufficiently compelling evidence of bribery to justify a formal, forensic investigation but, typically of Fifa, no written reasons have been produced or confirmation of what evidence exists.

In response Warner threatened to unleash his "tsunami", which was taken to be a threat to unearth all the skeletons crammed into his cupboard in 29 years at Fifa.

He began immediately, citing the email from Valcke in which Fifa's secretary general displayed blatant bias towards Blatter and included the almost casual line that the Qataris had "bought" the 2022 World Cup.

Warner's damaging leak left Valcke worrying about keeping his job and he responded by explaining that he had not meant Qatar had "purchase of votes or similar unethical behaviour", only that they "used their financial strength to lobby for support". That clarification appeared good enough for Fifa, so Valcke was there in the Hallenstadion on Wednesday, calling countries one by one to register votes on a ballot paper with one name on it.

Warner also made the serious allegation that on 3 May, a month before the election, Blatter had at the Concacaf congress in Miami "made a gift of $1m to Concacaf to spend as it deems fit".

Michel Platini, Uefa's president and a Fifa executive committee member considered Blatter's protégé, responded that he was not concerned by the revelation. He said, remarkably, that Blatter "has his own budget" to dish out development projects under Fifa's Goal programme.

Blatter did not discuss the allegation in detail and Fifa later issued a clarification. "President Joseph S Blatter did not give $1m to Concacaf in Miami," it said. "He promised that he would propose that two additional Goal projects would be allocated to the confederation."

The Goal project is Fifa's flagship means of distributing to needy, smaller countries some of its enormous income, $4.2bn from 2007-10, principally from selling the global commercial rights to the World Cup.

Fifa's most recent accounts state that in the same four-year period $120m was spent on Goal projects, with a further $261m on other development work. Included in "development related expenses" is a much larger figure, $413m, straightforwardly given to confederations. Part of this is Fifa's financial assistance programme which helps member associations finance football activities "and many more simply to carry out their work". In 2010 Fifa granted every member association a one-off payment of $550,000, and each confederation $5m – $144m altogether.

This is a huge sum and the suspicion has lingered for years that Fifa's is the politics of the pork barrel, with loyalty to "the family" and the family head Blatter. The fealty of delegates is bought with cash, business-class travel, purring limousines and five-star hotels. The Observer asked Fifa by what authority the president could promise to recommend $1m of new Goal projects to a confederation four weeks before an election. Fifa has not so far responded.

Then there was Fifa's presentation of James Dingemans QC's report, for the English FA, into the allegations of impropriety made in parliament against four executive committee members by Lord Triesman, the former chairman of the FA and its 2018 World Cup bid. Valcke, on Sunday night, said Dingemans established that all four – Nicolás Leoz of Paraguay, Worawi Makudi of Thailand, Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil and Warner – were "completely clean".

Blatter opened his own press conference with the news that: "The executive committee of Fifa was very pleased to receive the report of the FA and we were happy to confirm there are no elements which would prompt any proceedings." Fifa clarified that any proceedings would have been carried out by the ethics committee.

Yet a reading of the 18-page summary Fifa published reveals that Dingemans was deeply concerned about the vulnerability to corruption of the bidding process for the World Cup, which is decided by a vote of the 24 executive committee members. He found that England's efforts to win over these men led Warner to ask the FA to build an academy in Trinidad, England to agree with Makudi to play a friendly with Thailand and allow the Thais to sell the worldwide as well as Thai-only rights, a more generous offer than normal, and that Leoz's staff had persistently asked for "a decoration, an honour," suggesting a knighthood or that the FA Cup be named after him.

The FA, Dingemans found, actually discussed what honour it could conceivably award the Fifa man. "There is a need for an updated and detailed code of ethics which deals with both lawful and unlawful approaches to and from members of the Fifa executive committee," Dingemans concluded. The process, the QC said, had to be made much more transparent.

To that, Fifa has made no response. Blatter's statement seems only to explain a cosy process: the executive committee met to discuss the report into alleged misconduct by four of its members and "were very happy" to decide they did not need to refer themselves to the ethics committee. Such is world football's governing body. It is why the sceptics, including now the FA, will take some persuading that Blatter means his promise of "zero tolerance" for impropriety.

That pledge was undermined in those extraordinary speeches by delegates from Haiti, Benin, Congo, Fiji, Cyprus and the major football nations of Spain and Argentina, denouncing Bernstein, supporting Blatter and depicting the corruption allegations, the most serious of which came from inside Fifa by Blazer, as inventions of the British media.

Over the week Blatter's promise of reforms became a moving feast. The pledge that all 208 member associations will now choose the World Cup host, not the executive committee, is seen as genuine progress. However – take note – the executive committee will still determine the shortlist.

Blatter described his promised overhaul of Fifa's rules on Monday as a "strengthening of the ethics committee", which became by Wednesday a "committee for governance and compliance" and "the committee of the solutions" which could feature the 88-year-old former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, an ally of Blatter.

This conference week in Zurich, broadcast live to the world without shame on fifa.com, exposed more viscerally than ever the character and culture of Blatter's football "family".

The overriding, relentless impression was of ample, unaccountable men who do not see how they look, of delegates slavishly following them, of a governing body which is not earnestly committed to fair play or reform.{jcomments on}

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