Due to the recent decision of newly reelected FIFA president Sepp Blatter to a fifth straight term, the world of soccer was further turned upside when the 79-year-old decided to resign, reportedly under pressure from an ongoing investigation by the FBI, sponsors and internal pressure from within.
While the real reason for Blatter’s about-face over the last 72 hours will never truly be answered, many questions about the future of soccer globally now need to be addressed. In a round-table discussion with INSCMagazine columnists, Steve Saunders, Nick Granados, Daniel Wolfe and Mad Scientists Sports Lab’s Nick A. Ficorelli III, the talk of soccer in the United States, questions about the ethics of the game as well as it’s future are discussed.
Please leave any feedback in the “comments” section below.
INSC: What were your initial reactions to the news of Blatter’s resignation?
SS: “ My initial reaction was that of pure joy and optimism. Blatter has been at the helm during one of the most exciting periods of football history but also most corrupt and done more, I believe, to harm the sport than aid it. However, after pondering the future of FIFA, my optimism began to fade as I realized that the next president will likely continue playing the same game out of which Blatter made a five-term career. Unless some very real changes are made in the manner FIFA do business, I fear the next leader will bring more of the same”
NFIII: “It’s about time it happened. Once the indictment came down, he had to know that his “house of cards” was beginning to fall, and that one of his “minions” would flip on him.”
DW: “My initial reaction was one of pure disbelief. Blatter had just won the election by default. Blatter was an arrogant, cocky, and greedy president. After his press conference once he was re-elected he pretty much clowned everyone who doubted him. He took his post and told investigators “I don’t care what’s going on, I’m not going anywhere.” So the fact that he stepped down not even a week later is baffling to me and soccer fans everywhere.”
NG: “I was honestly surprised. A big part of the surprise came from the fact that he was just re-elected as FIFA President on Friday. I think, because of that, it didn’t really make sense that he would resign right after being re-elected. After getting over the initial surprise, however, some things started to make sense.”
INSC: What factors do you think resulted in such a shocking turnaround after 72 hours?
SS: “Much like everything regarding FIFA, it all comes down to money. I have no doubt certain sponsors threatened to withdraw support and there has been no secret about England’s public pondering on whether to boycott Russia 2018 (a move that would likely have a domino effect on the rest of Europe and beyond). I think there was pressure from within FIFA for Blatter to resign and would no be surprised to hear there was bargaining regarding prison”
NFIII: “First, you had Chuck Blazer begin to pave the way for the Feds, then as more to the story came out, more and more seemed to point in his direction. The nail in the coffin was the news that his top lieutenant Valcke authorized 3 huge bank transfers to Jack Warner, once “this close” to Blatter, and it led to the 2010 WC going to South Africa. Add the fire coming from CONCACAF, CONNENBOL, the lost support of Europe, USA, et al., the possible destruction of sponsorships, and it had to be done.”
DW: “The powerhouse countries that are members of FIFA have had enough of what was going on. With the investigation pending I see this as an about face in terms of why Blatter would do a complete 180. There are a lot of issues regarding the most powerful organization in all of professional sports. Blatter stepping down I see as an opportunity to save his image. Coca-Cola made a statement today saying that today’s news is a step in a positive direction. Adidas has also made similar statements.”
NG: “It’s hard to believe that the recent corruption scandal that plagued FIFA and several top FIFA officials didn’t play a large part in Blatter’s decision to resign. There are a number of things that could have played a role, but the recent corruption allegations seemed to put a ton of pressure on FIFA and Blatter that he never felt before. Evidently, Blatter must have felt that stepping down was the best option for him, although this doesn’t end here for Blatter.”
INSC: With the New York Times recently reporting that an official moved $10 million to help secure South Africa’s bid, do you feel that a re-election for the 2018 and 2022 bids should be on the table?
SS: “Should? Yes. Will there be a revote is another question entirely. Russia has been working to prepare for the World Cup in 2018 and I don’t think it makes logistical sense to pull it now. By the time new bids are received, a new PRESIDENT had been elected and a new country rewarded the Cup it will be about two and a half years out from the competition. Is that enough time to plan the biggest event in world sport? Perhaps England, with world class stadia such as Ashburton Grove, Old Trafford, Anfield and who doesn’t love a Wembley cup final, would be able to pull it off in time. Not as encouraged by their transportation and hospitality infrastructure outside of London, that could prove a problem.”
“In my mind, Qatar is toast. I know this may still happen with the amount of support the country has bought…err…garnered…from countries such as Spain and France and if the successor is, indeed, vote runner-up Ali Bin Al-Hussein, I can’t see him taking a Cup AWAY from the Middle East. I don’t think any decision will be made for at least a year (shouldn’t have been decided until shortly before Russia ’18) but between the bribery, horrific human rights record and most importantly MASSIVE death count, I’d say there is a pretty good chance any non-partisan president will move it. Obviously, as an American, I want it here. We are poised for a golden generation in the next decade and what will catapult football into the ranks of the Big 3 faster than winning the world’s greatest prize ON HOME SOIL?!”
NFIII: “Absolutely, as the money trail will continue to spawn, and it may only be a matter of time that people will spill the beans on what actuall happened behind “the iron curtain” of FIFA.”
DW: “The 2018 World Cup has only two sponsors at this time (Budwieser and McDonalds). For a financial standpoint 2018 needs to be put on the table and rather quickly so that we can have a World Cup in 2018. If that cannot be figured out, then Russia should remain as a host country. The 2022 World Cup is already looking like a disaster and we are still seven years away from the competition. The projected death count for citizens of Qatar is staggering. Playing the World Cup in December would be a complete disgrace to a game that has grown more with the increased popularity of Soccer in the United States.”
NG: “An investigation into Russia’s 2018 bid should take place, though I don’t think a re-election for host should necessarily be on the table for 2018 unless the investigation warrants it. As for 2022? Different story. One thing that I can see keeping the 2018 World Cup in Russia is the fact that it is just three years from now and may not be enough time to switch hosts. The same can’t necessarily be said for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. From the moment Qatar was announced as host for 2022, just about everyone outside of FIFA was scratching their heads at the selection. Re-election for 2018 probably should be on the table, but likely won’t. Re-election for 2022 should be on the table.”
INSC: Who is the front-runner to succeed him and why?
SS: “I think it’s between Prince Ali, Michel Platini and Luis Figo. Personally, it has to be Figo in that situation. It is ridiculous to have the world governing body of football run by anyone BUT a former player or at least manager. Among the names bantered about, Prince Ali would be a travesty, the man was essentially born into a position with the Jordanian FA and his qualifications end there. Platini, as head of UEFA had overseen the second most corrupt organization in football. That leaves Figo, like Platini, a footballing legend in his own right, unlike Platini, he has no history of corruption. If the vote is put to the fans, however, the next president will be Gunnersaurus”
NFIII: “This is where it will be tricky. One would say Platini, but after his vote for Qatar, there is blood on the hands, and who knows if he may be a target. Bin Ali would be another, but coming from “money”, what makes you think he won’t do things on the sly as well. Luis Figo was the most vocal, but he is green and we are talking a mountain as high as Everest in FIFA. If you want a dark-house, look at Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer President. He has some serious backing, and the “least” blood on the hands with FIFA.”
DW: “Prince Ali bin Hussein as of right now will be the front runner as the only man to go against Blatter in the latest FIFA election. He wants to see change in the organization and at 39 years of age he would bring a youthfulness to the Organization.”
NG: “The odds are literally in favor of UEFA President Michel Platini to succeed Blatter, and I don’t disagree with it. Platini has a better chance than Blatter’s lone opponent in the election, Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, does of succeeding Blatter.”
INSC: Due to the FBI-IRS probe that saw the arrest of multiple FIFA officials and executives, what reform is needed to ensure the quality of soccer? (in the United States?)
SS: “We are on the path, at the grass-roots level organizations such as AYSO and Super Soccer Stars are developing children into footballers all across the country. If you think about what it takes for a kid to become a world-class player, you need proper training beginning around the age of 2-4 years. “Soccer” didn’t REALLY exist in the mainstream in this country until we hosted the Cup in 1994. Logically, it follows that if a kid at the age of two got into the sport and was properly trained the OLDEST they could be now is 21, an age at which they are just now coming into their own as a player and about five years away from their athletic prime. I would expect to see an influx of American talent in the next five years
At the administrative level, I think we need to grow the passion for the sport. There are some clubs with a great history of passionate fans and we should use that instead of MLS expansion teams. What we need is a coming together of the three professional leagues in the US (The MLS, NASL and USL) in a three tiered system of promotion and relegation. The existing teams would be divided equally into each level with one league having only one more team in any level (ie American Premier League comprising of 7 MLS, 7 NASL and 6 USL teams)
Also, don’t take bribes or launder money and pay your taxes… but that seems the obvious answer”
NFIII: “It all needs to be scrubbed down to very bottom and rebuilt back up. It will take a lot of time, effort and patience, but most of all trust. ExCo needs to pared down to a minimum of 5. The FIFA Congress should be open and not a secret. Basically, be as out front as an organization can be.”
DW: “The United States needs to have more events where the best players in the World can be showcased to the American audience on a wider scale. The event CONCACAF had planned for 2016 between North American and South American countries that was slated to take place in the United States needs to happen in order for the game to flourish in America.”
NG: “One thing that can help is to find out who is responsible for the corruption and then take action against them, most likely removing them. I think the investigation that is current going on will go a long way in figuring all of this out. With that in mind, they also need a specific set of guidelines when selecting the host for the World Cup, Women’s World Cup, etc. and stick to those guidelines. If a country doesn’t meet the guidelines to host, then they can’t host.”
INSC: Do you fear that since the arrest was made on American soil, that FIFA will retaliate by never awarding another World Cup to the United States?
SS: “No, the arrests were made in Switzerland for one, and have the support of the world. Everyone knew FIFA were up to no good, we just made the convictions stick”
NFIII: “Not at all. First of all, most of the arrests took place in Switzerland, and the Swiss themselves are running their own investigation, so it is a world-wide effort to say the least. I think FIFA will look at this as a blessing, because the Blatter loyalists will no longer hold the power after all is said in done. I would not be surprised if the USA gets 2026 (2022 if you want to be a betting man, 🙂 )”
DW: “If FIFA wants to show the World it can change, I don’t see retaliation from the organization.”
NG: “Honestly, no. It would be very hard to imagine the World Cup never being in the United States again.”