Early Doors

Blatter remains untouchable as FIFA farce continues

Early Doors

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Things were never going to go smoothly at the FIFA congress in Zurich, were they?

As the custodians of the world game gathered at the headquarters of the sport's governing body, ostensibly to re-elect reigning president Sepp Blatter unopposed, the farce that the organisation has become was always going to produce a few more twists in the tale.

The continuing fallout from the bribes-for-votes scandal has become such a major issue that it was given top billing on Newsnight last night. Many football fans may be tired of all these shenanigans, more interested instead in which striker their club is being linked with in the summer transfer window or who the latest players to take out injunctions are. But when even Jeremy Paxman is across a football story, sneering away contemptuously as he delivers the news as though you don't deserve the knowledge, you know it's big.

Even before the vote last December to decide the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, there were allegations of rife corruption among the men who sit on the executive committee in a boardroom eerily reminiscent of the war room in Dr Strangelove. Since that vote resulted in the 2022 tournament going to Qatar, the lid has been blown off the whole racket to the point where 10 members of the 24-man committee are either suspended or accused of playing a part in some nefarious palm-greasing exchange or other.   

It's a mark of how detached and clueless FIFA is that, in front of an international media which has already denounced the organisation as a circus, that the opening ceremony should feature Grace Jones hula-hooping on stage, followed by a juggling harlequin. But that was nothing compared to the clowning that was going on inside the corridors of power.

Less than 24 hours after claiming that Blatter "must be stopped", suspended CONCACAF president Jack Warner made a remarkable u-turn, offering his backing to Blatter, the man depicted on the front page of this morning's copy of The Sun alongside Colonel Gadaffi with the headline "Despot the difference". Extreme? Yes. Disproportionate? Absolutely. But it sums up the Swiss overlord's desperate cling on to power. Quite how talk of Blatter negotiating a reduced two-year term upon re-election can be construed as a good compromise for anyone is a mystery.

The FA, displaying characteristic lightning reactions, announced that it wanted the vote postponed until a credible challenger could be put up to stand against Blatter following Mohamed bin Hammam's withdrawal from the race amid bribery allegations of his own. The best time for such a call was obviously the day before the vote.

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FA chief David Bernstein must have hoped it would work as a rallying cry to the other members of FIFA, with the 155 other nations required to get the ballot stopped standing in unison behind him. So far, the Scottish FA are the only ones to publicly back Bernstein. Only 154 to go, guys.

Meanwhile three of FIFA's major sponsors - Visa, Emirates and Coca Cola - have all expressed their concerns at the scandal ripping through the very top of the biggest sport on the planet. It is so nice of these global corporations to reveal their consciences at this time, even if 'expressing concern' is not quite the same as 'doing something'. The fact that they have chosen this moment to air their moral objections, just as international public derision of the organisation they patronise has reached a crescendo is, of course, pure coincidence.

But perhaps most absurd of all is the news which broke late last night that Chuck Blazer, the CONCACAF general secretary who had acted as the whistleblower on the latest round of bribery allegations, was fired by the acting head of his own federation. Or was he? No one is really sure at this point. Acting CONCACAF president Lisle Austin had stepped in to replace his suspended ally Warner and immediately went for the man who ratted on his buddy.

However, soon afterwards a CONCACAF statement went against Austin, describing his actions as "unauthorised declaration" and insisting that "Chuck Blazer continues as CONCACAF general secretary and with the full authority of his office".

That was late last night, and now this morning German Federation president Theo Zwanziger has called for a full investigation into the 2022 World Cup vote. We have a full day of the congress today before we get to the vote itself, which is item 14 on the agenda. Who knows how many more claims, accusations, sackings and back-stabbings we are going to have before then?

The whole process has descended into chaos as everyone is openly out to save themselves at the expense of whoever gets in their way. It is almost like the climax of a Martin Scorsese gangster epic.

When the good times rolled, everyone could decadently feather their nests as they pleased, with only the occasional need for a bit of bribery or some other unpleasantness to preserve the status quo for those in the upper echelons of the complex power structure.

Now, however, with things unravelling in such a messy and public fashion, the grisly casualties are piling up while the man at the very top, who probably knows more than anyone else, remains untouchable.   

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I feel energetic, so a club role is more preferable. And that's what I like, working every day. I feel I need to do more. I've trained Australia and PSV at the same time, as well as Russia and Chelsea, and I was very happy. We'll see what happens with Turkey. I haven't told the chairman what I thought yet. But he's an intelligent man. I am sure he follows the world media." - Turkey manager Guus Hiddink speaks out about being linked with the Chelsea job.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Colony Capital and an investment company in Qatar have announced that they have finalised a draft agreement under which the new partner becomes a 70 per cent shareholder in Paris Saint Germain with Colony Capital keeping 30 per cent." - There is now another Qatari finger in the global football pie after investors from the country bought a 70 per cent stake in French top-flight club Paris St Germain.

COMING UP: Our live transfer ticker is already clicking into gear, giving you all the latest news and rumours for the summer window. West Brom boss Roy Hodgson is the latest manager to take our 60 seconds quickfire quiz, and Spanish football blogger Andy Mitten will be filing his verdict on Barcelona's Champions League final victory.

And if it's live sports coverage that you are craving then you can follow all the day's action from Roland Garros as the French Open nears the business end.

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