Sepp Blatter – Glorious Father of FIFA

June 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

While much of the media is calling the re-election of Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter as a ‘Coronation’ I can’t help thinking the process is closer to Stalinist Russia. Opponents, actual (Mohamed bin Hammam) or potential (Jack Warner) have been ruthlessly eliminated in the Great Purge or Ethic Committee investigation as it is called in FIFA circles. FIFA even has it’s own version of the one-party state – you can vote for whoever you want … so long is it’s Joseph Sepp Blatter.

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Blatter’s defence lacks substance

December 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Fifa chief Sepp Blatter says “To be honest, I was surprised by all the English complaining after the defeat“. Perhaps he wasn’t aware of the BBC’s Panorama programme “FIFA’s Dirty Secrets” or of the Sunday Times investigation into corruption at Fifa, both of which happened before the vote. Perhaps he should have spoken to his vice-president Jack Warner; Warner has good reason to remember the Panorama programme – he was featured on it looked rather shifty while ignoring Andrew Jennings’ questions about corruption. And if Warner is to be believed (a big if admittedly) then a large proportion of FIFA’s voting committee must have been aware of the allegation if as Warner claims it was the British media that cost England the 2018 World Cup bid.

If Warner’s tactic to the corruption question is to doge it then  Blatter’s is to resort to the increasingly familiar tactic of the unsupported assertion. Why back up your claims with facts – especially if the facts aren’t on your side.

What about the suggestion that Fifa officials might be tempted to cash in? Blatter’s assertion: “Nobody can  come along and simply hold out their hand. There are no rotten eggs.” No facts are offered in support of his claim. Unfortunately for him the fact is that six senior Fifa officials were suspended following the Sunday Times expose.

Another Blatter assertion: “There is no systematic corruption in Fifa. That is nonsense. We are financially clean and clear.” Again, no facts are offered in support of his claim.

With a long list of bribery allegations in the Panorama programme amounting to some $100m over a 10 year period it might seem bizarre that Blatter singled out one allegation for the relatively paltry amount of $25,000.

But at least Blatter does offer up a fact in support of his claim. He asserts that Issa Hayatou (the president of African football’s governing body) “had done nothing wrong”? And what, you might wonder, is the one solitary fact he offers?  Blatter says: “I can tell you: Hayatou is the son of a sultan”.

So there you have it allegations of 10 years of bribes totalling $100 million and Blatter’s defence: one of the accused is the son of a sultan.

suffocating democracy

December 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Two major stories unfolding this past week at first sight bore little in common. England’sfailed World Cup bid is not obviously related to the new deluge of wikileaks. The link, to my mind, was created when the 2018 bid chief executive Andy Anson attacked the BBC as ‘unpatriotic’.

The BBC’s unpatriotic crime? Telling the truth. The investigative Panorama aired the documentary “FIFA’s Dirty Secrets” last week. Anson branded the programme as ‘sensationalist’ – despite not having seen it.

Wikileaks has also been subject to enormous pressure to not go public. As with the Panorama programme the veracity of the information released is not in question.

The question put to the panel in this weeks Question Time was “is wikileaks good for democracy”. Despite the audience majority vote of ‘no’, I wonder if like the panel they lost sight of the original question.

The democracy imperative is beyond question but what constitutes democracy is a question less frequently asked and even less frequently answered. I’m sure the Question Time audience would agree that free and fair elections are essential to democracy. But for the vote to mean anything the decision of who to vote for must be made with sufficient good information for the voter to make the right decision. To put it another way, if the voter would have made a different voting decision if he/she had more information then that information is important to the democratic process.

Mrs Thatcher once created a small cottage industry for actors dubbing their voices over Gerry Adams’ public utterances  because she wished to deny Sinn Fein, to coin Mrs T’s memorable phrase, “the oxygen of publicity”. This bizarre practice proved ineffective and the ban was lifted.

I would humbly suggest that Mrs T would have been better served to reword her phrase to “information is the oxygen of democracy”. Without sufficient good information democracy suffocates. For this reason it is possible that wikileaks can serve democracy and Panorama should be free to make accurate and informative documentary programmes.

pavlov’s sports media

November 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

When Sunday’s draw for the 2nd round of the FA Cup was made the draw which potentially pitted AFC Wimbledon against Milton Keynes Dons (Franchise FC) was variously described by large sections of the media in terms of the game that had Wimbledon fans “salivating”.

The only problem with this line of reporting was that it wasn’t true. Most Wimbledon fans would say that it’s a game they would rather avoid.

In 2002 when the football authorities, in violation of their own ruleses, allowed the owners of Wimbledon FC to relocate their property 70 miles north to Buckinghamshire, against the wish of the fans of the South London club feelings of betrayal and of loss far exceeding those normally experienced were suffered.

Blogs written by real fans were quick to understand and empathise. The likes of 200 percent and Two Footed Tackle provided thoughtful articles that hit the nail on the head.

By contrast it seems that traditional media see a situation where two groups of fans are in conflict and, like a dog conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell, automatically bills the fixture as a “grudge match”.

Grudge matches provide the chance to get one over an old rival, or to settle a grievance arising from incidences such as cheating or an ill-tempered match. Such matches are keenly anticipated; they add spice to the football season.

“Grudge” doesn’t begin to describe how Wimbledon fans feel towards the franchise (and the football authorities that allowed it all to happen). If a normal grudge match can be likened to a bout of fisticuffs under the Queensbury rules then meeting with Franchise FC is akin to the victims of a war crime anticipating meeting the perpetrators of the atrocity.

If there is a silver lining to the prospect of the Cup-tie from hell it is that maybe the traditional media might understand a little better what drives football fans and what really matters to them. Then perhaps the media will write carefully considered articles rather than the knee-jerk reaction pieces that are less likely to have football fans salivating than frothing at the mouth.

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