UEFA and FIFA’s Marriage in doubt?
The already strained relationship between UEFA and FIFA has hit a new low after the former attacked the latter’s president, Sepp Blatter, over allegations of misconduct. Revelations published in the German press over the weekend claimed that one of Blatter’s closest advisers, FIFA’s chief lawyer Marco Villiger, made a lengthy list of suggested amendments to a report on how FIFA should be modified so that it did not paint Blatter in a bad light. The report, by FIFA’s supposedly independent governance committee, chaired by Swiss criminal law professor Mark Pieth, was published last April. It explicitly blamed UEFA, the European governing body, for a lack of progress and claimed: “The prospects for reform are probably at their greatest if Blatter wins more time as president.” Reacting to the reports in German news magazine Der Spiegel, Pedro Pinto, a spokesperson for UEFA’s president, Michel Platini, said: “The latest revelations regarding the Pieth report show that FIFA’s independent governance committee was anything but independent. UEFA has always wondered why it was criticised by Mr Pieth and wrongly accused of blocking FIFA reforms. Now we understand why and where it all came from.”
Blatter’s decision to stand for a fifth term as FIFA president has set it and its most powerful federation, UEFA, at loggerheads. Platini is not running for the presidency as many had thought he would, but the three candidates challenging Blatter, Dutch football administrator Michael van Praag, Portuguese legend Luis Figo and Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, are doing so with the backing of European football nations. The revelations in Der Spiegel claim that Villiger saw a draft of the report, two months before its publication, which contained lengthy passages on the historic ISL scandal. ISL, Independent Sport and Leisure, was FIFA’s official marketing partner in the 1990s which went bankrupt at the end of 2001 and has since been exposed for paying millions of dollars in bribes to FIFA executives. “All references to the ISL case are unnecessary,” Villiger wrote. A FIFA spokesperson stated the organisation had been “totally transparent” in the way it had produced the report.
Blatter, current president of FIFA, was elected in 1998 and re-elected 2002, 2007 and 2011. Despite fierce criticism, Blatter remains extremely popular among FIFA delegates in Africa, Asia, Oceania and large sections of Latin America. His latest challenger, Luis Figo, who has served on the UEFA Football Committee from 2011 to 2015, played as a winger for Sporting CP, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Internazionale before retiring in 2009, is understood to already have the minimum five nominations. Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, FIFA vice president, has backing among those wanting further reform of FIFA, including the English Football Association, but will struggle to gain support in his home confederation of Asia. Michael van Praag, former chairman of Ajax and current head of the Dutch FA, is an outspoken critic of Blatter. The 67-year-old has said he has the backing of Belgium, Sweden, Scotland, Romania, the Faroe Islands and the Netherlands. For the best interest of the game and its future, one would have to hope that the best football prediction is right and that Blatter will lose!