FIFA faces multiple problems after World Cup respite

By Brian Homewood, Reuters

Posted at Jul 15 2014 07:48 PM | Updated as of Jul 16 2014 03:48 AM

(L-R) FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Brazil's Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, chief executive officer of Brazil's 2014 World Cup local organizing committee (LOC) Ricardo Trade and Brazil's Deputy Sports Minister Luis Fernandes attend a news conference at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro July 14, 2014. Photo by Pilar Olivares, Reuters.

RIO DE JANEIRO - Soccer's governing body FIFA will have little time to bask in the glory of the 2014 World Cup as it faces a plethora of problems, ranging from a ticket touting scandal to the never-ending controversy over 2022 tournament hosts Qatar.

A split between Europe and the rest of the world will add to FIFA's concerns in the run-up to next year's presidential election where Sepp Blatter is almost certain to stand for a fifth term at the age of 79, despite his unpopularity among the general public.

FIFA's directors will barely have stepped off the plane in Zurich before having to face the Qatar issue once again.

Former United States attorney Michael Garcia, who has been leading a FIFA ethics committee investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding the award of the 2022 World Cup to the Gulf state, is due to submit his report within the next few weeks.

The case will then be handed to German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, head of the ethics committee's adjudicatory chamber, and if he finds corruption, Qatar could face a challenge to its position as host either through a re-vote or other processes.

The Sunday Times newspaper reported recently that some of the "millions of documents" it had seen linked payments by former FIFA executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam to officials to win backing for Qatar's World Cup bid.

Qatar has also been under fire for its treatment of tens of thousands of migrant workers in the construction industry and FIFA still has to decide in which time of year the tournament should be held to avoid the scorching summer.

That decision in turn could play havoc with European club football's complex calendar which is centred around a summer break.

More immediate is the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where the cost of building new stadiums, security and the country's role in the Ukraine crisis are all areas of concern.


FIFA's reputation was further dented during the World Cup when Brazilian police arrested 11 people for allegedly re-selling tickets originally allocated to soccer federations and other VIPs. Brazilian police say the ring aimed to earn up to 200 million reais ($90 million).

The suspects included Ray Whelan, a director of Swiss hospitality company MATCH, which is contracted by FIFA to arrange ticketing and hospitality packages for the World Cup.

Blatter, who was roundly jeered every time his face was shown on the giant screens at stadiums during the World Cup, remains undeterred and has repeated in the last few months that his "mission is not finished."

UEFA president Michel Platini told the French sports newspaper L'Equipe in June that he would not support Blatter for another term but the Swiss still appears to have overwhelming support from Africa, Asia and Oceania. Those regions see Europe as a blackhole into which their best players disappear.

Platini himself has yet to decide whether to stand and, although Blatter's former advisor Jerome Champagne has declared himself a candidate, he has admitted to could not beat the current incumbent.

Meanwhile, the sport faces many other serious issues which are rarely addressed by FIFA.

Football in most of the world is a far cry from the glamour of the World Cup and showcase competitions such as the Champions League and England's Premier League.

The so-called big five European leagues act as a giant vacuum, hoovering up all the best players and sucking the life out of professional football in the rest of the world.

Many leagues operate in precarious conditions with players struggling to get paid on time, which in turn creates fertile ground for match-fixing, yet another headache for the sport's authorities.

Only last week, the Uruguayan players' union said that clubs in the South American country owed a total of around 2 million dollars in unpaid wages.

Players at Mexican second division side Celaya recently placed brown paper bags over their heads in their official team photograph before a match in protest at unpaid wages.

Champagne said that the divide between football in Western and Eastern Europe was greater than in the days before the fall of the Berlin Wall and that a "financial iron curtain" now separated the two halves of the continent.

Despite tighter transfer regulations, the trafficking of minors continues, according to a charity which deals with the problem

Last year, the Cultaire Foot Solidaire group said that hundreds of African teenagers are still being led abroad by false agents and often abandoned on the streets of European countries.

Jean-Claude Mbvoumin, a former Cameroon international who heads the group, said it was estimated that up to 15,000 young African players were taken abroad every year under false pretences.

But such issues invariably take a back stage to the interminable political in-fighting and allegations of corruption which dog soccer's governing body and which is likely to hog the limelight for the foreseeable future.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood, Editing by Nigel Hunt)