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Football is democracy – and democracies need an Opposition

The call by former chairman of the English FA Lord Triesman that FIFA president Sepp Blatter resign immediately is extraordinary enough. But what’s quite incredible is that he thinks “more or less all” of the rest of the leadership of this financially powerful but spiritually and ethically bankrupt organisation should follow him out the door.

“We really need a clean sweep and a new start with some of the younger people coming through who have not been enmeshed in this for decades,” he said in an interview with Sky News in Britain. “If you don’t change the culture you could change presidents till the cows come home, it would make no difference.”


Well, the clean sweep is not going to happen anytime soon. Blatter, Ricardo Teixeira, Julio Grondona, Nicolas Leoz, Issa Hayatou and the rest of the nicely fattened Sunshine Boys on the executive committee ain’t going anywhere unless the police turn up with search warrants (Teixeira must be sweating a little at the moment).

Nor is there much prospect of a cultural paradigm shift when Blatter’s idea of fresh blood is an unjustly feted dotard who should be indicted for war crimes and a Spanish opera singer who should have had the humility to realise his appointment would be received with scorn and derision and declined it on the grounds of decency.

Blatter defended the selection of Henry Kissinger and Placido Domingo for his faintly Nationalsozialistische-sounding Solutions Committee as “advisers” and says they’re not experts. But that’s precisely the problem. Why are people without expertise in football being asked to give advice to a president and ex-co who almost to a man are career politicians and bring nothing but their greed and peerless powers of self-preservation to the table?

The most obvious question, however, that emerges from Triesman’s latest comments is why does the football world bother with FIFA at all?

There’s nothing stopping a brave FA from withdrawing from FIFA, finding other FAs that are prepared to follow their example and starting an alternative world organisation with a leadership (president, vice-president and executive committee) that reflects the will of the fans and represents the very best minds in the sport.

That’s right. Nothing.

There are contracts, of course, but they are not for time immemorial. They can be broken. They have arbitration provisions. They can be disputed in court and challenged. There is nothing in law that would prevent a breakaway global federation, a rebel FIFA, being set up to challenge the hegemony of FIFA.

FIFA may act like a fascist government but football’s very essence is democracy. In effect, it is the world’s greatest democracy. It is a game played, followed and celebrated by people from all walks of life, everywhere. What we as fans think and what we as fans want actually matters.

But a functioning, effective democracy requires organised political opposition. It’s something football does not have but must. The public mood is for change (attested to by the explosive rise of the grassroots campaign group ChangeFIFA); the conditions have never been riper for revolution.

Someone just has to find the courage to withdraw, reconstitute, blow the whistle and take on FIFA.

With four billion fans behind them, they’ll be unstoppable.

This column was originally published by the Sunday Guardian. Please check for new columns by me every Sunday at www.sunday-guardian.com. Love to see you there.

8 Comments

  1. Andrew Lomax
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Nice read but out of interest who is capable of starting the revolution, the FA?

  2. LJ
    Posted October 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Really missing your thoughts and opinions on the domestic front Jess.
    TWG.au is sooo much poorer without you. Any chance of a reconciliation?

  3. Elliot
    Posted October 19, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    We are definitively missing the a-league and socceroos analysis. While this stuff is great, missing the more local discussion.

  4. James
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Jesse, i miss your thoughts of the domestic front too.. would be nice if we could have one of the two columns a week based on domestic issues

  5. Jesse Fink
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    I don’t write for Australian football media any more. Both my contracted columns are for Asian audiences, hence the wider focus.

  6. Jesse Fink
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Ask them, mate. But thanks for the support. Appreciated.

  7. James
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    Totally agree, whilst I do enjoy your columns no matter what the subject, I have far less interest in global football politics, or the machinations inside FIFA. Not complaining at all, big fan of yours, but would be great to read more local content from you once more!

  8. James
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    Yeah, I’ve probably read two columns on TWG since you left, and they were mediocre.