28. Dec. 2012
Blatter is rather the solution than the problem
By Andi Gross
Andi Gross is a political scientist, an FC Basel fan since 1965, Zurich National Council member since 1991 and Parliamentary President of the Social Democrats in the Council of Europe since 2008. This article was also published in Swiss daily newspaper Tages Anzeiger.
December 28 - The culture committee of the Council of Europe addressed the FIFA reform process and the role of the President of world football's governing body at a Paris hearing this week.
Sporting activities are widely regarded as the world's most important kind of pastime, with football the leading discipline. It is the game with most active participants and even more people enjoy watching it. Over the course of the 33 days of a FIFA World Cup™, a cumulative total of 26 billion people watch the action on television, five times more than the viewing figures for a summer Olympics. No other sport is as universal. No other sport generates as much money.
In the last few decades football has become huge business. It is the biggest advertising vehicle for everything, from beverages to electronics. It is an incredible money-making machine in which many people, including dubious individuals, want a cut of the profits. Lying, cheating, bribing and corruption have become a part of the game.
It is therefore no surprise that the world's most representative parliament, with 320 members from the 47 states of the Council of Europe - which represent almost 800 million citizens, has been looking at the diverse aspects of the football business, particularly the murkier side, for a long time now.
They are allowed to take anything that involves European citizens under the microscope for closer inspection. As a result they have produced several recommendations to prevent betting fraud, match-fixing and doping; to dismantle corruption and to direct the organisation of football, the awarding of FIFA World Cup locations as well as the management of the huge profits generated into well-ordered channels.
Zwanziger: 'Not just going through the motions'
In the process, the most important organisation in football was examined by the Council of Europe, namely FIFA. With 209 national associations it has more members than the United Nations, is based in Zurich, is organised like any federal club in accordance with the relatively simple Swiss associations' law and has been shaped for what seems like a century by the ever-active Sepp Blatter (75).
In a three-hour hearing in Paris December 19, the Committee on Culture at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly addressed the reform process started by FIFA 18 months ago and which certain parties have looked to derail once more.
During the proceedings Theo Zwanziger, the former President of the German Football Association (DFB) who was on the FIFA Executive Committee and involved in the governing of FIFA at the beginning of the reform process, stood out, alongside former French diplomat, FIFA Deputy Secretary General and current consultant Jérôme Champagne; and, by correspondence, the Basel professor and anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth, who has an important role in the widespread reorganisation at FIFA.
Zwanziger stated that FIFA's process of reform is not a question of "just going through the motions". It is about progressing with democratisation, division of power, transparency and the decentralisation of legislative authority and business. And the newly created judicial division, which has been divided into disciplinary, prosecutory and punitive chambers, is already up and running and will be able to shine a light on the darker sides of the past. However, it has not yet all been cemented in the statutes as it should be, which is why the FIFA Congress in Mauritius in the summer will take on greater significance.
Champagne emphasised that the issue was about more than FIFA, namely about what kind of football we want in the 21st century. One dominated by the interests of the richest clubs, the richest leagues and Europe (similar to the way the NBA dominates basketball worldwide), or one that takes everyone into account, evens things out and hosts matches and competitions where it is not clear from the off that those with the biggest budget will win.
Whoever favours the latter must have a democratically operating FIFA with the legitimacy and power to balance things out on the business side too. A FIFA that in future will continue to invest a minimum of a third of its income into sporting development in weaker regions, and to combat the trend of rich clubs and players getting ever richer while the vast majority become increasingly poor and with an ever decreasing chance of success.
Both Zwanziger and Champagne highlighted that, contrary to many claims, Blatter is not a part of the problem but a part of the solution. «Without him and the support he enjoys in Africa and Asia, football and FIFA cannot be reformed,» said Champagne. By way of contrast, there are alleged autocratic leaders and oligarchic continental bodies that are impeding the reform process and have therefore not stopped discrediting Blatter and the reform process.
Included in this, according to Pieth in his correspondence with the Council of Europe commission, are «several European national associations», who are looking to prevent FIFA's reform efforts and the strengthening of its regulatory power in the interests of everyone, in order to benefit the richer clubs and leagues. Pieth's desire for the Council of Europe to take action against these constrictive elements was well received by the parliamentarians from all 47 European states, despite widespread scepticism.
Kontakt mit Andreas Gross