Fifa fiasco: a breakaway is no longer unthinkable
It's not just the gravy train culture at Fifa that's objectionable. It's the bad decisions for football
Fifa president Sepp Blatter said this week: "I'm the President of Fifa and with 186 votes I'm proud. Don't worry about the English". His tactic was clear: blame the whingeing English for trying to engulf his organisation in controversy and carry on governing world football for another four years.
But even if we concede that sour grapes over England's unsuccessful bid to stage the 2018 World Cup was the main reason why the FA attempted to stop this week's presidential vote in Zurich, there's no getting away from the fact that football's governing body is in urgent need of a major overhaul.
If you're not impressed by the argument of FA chairman David Bernstein, then take heed of Graham Taylor, the former England manager and a decent 'old-style' football man through and through.
Writing a newspaper column this week titled 'Rotten to the core - the poison at the heart of Fifa', Taylor tells how, when he was a member of Fifa's technical committee, he was openly encouraged to charge expenses to Fifa for flights and other items that had already been paid by the FA.
"The next step, apparently, was to open a bank account in Switzerland and put all of the money claimed into it," Taylor told readers of the Daily Express. "I was informed that over the years I would have a tidy sum of money in my Swiss account".
But it's not just the gravy train culture at Fifa that's objectionable. It's the decisions they've made - and not made.
Awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia, a country which has a long-standing football tradition and which has never staged a major tournament before, seems fair enough. But the choice for 2022 of Qatar, a tiny Gulf state, which has never played in the World Cup finals before, and where temperatures rise to 50 degrees in June and July, was extraordinary to say the least.
Then there's the way Fifa has destroyed world football's premier tournament. When just the best 16 teams in the world took part, the World Cup was exciting. Now, with 32 teams, it's become an over-hyped, over-long bore, opening up with a fortnight of often mind-numbingly dull groups games. The last World Cup in South Africa, was arguably the worst ever, with only a handful of exciting games amid the hours of tedium.
While making changes that shouldn't have been made, Fifa has proved reluctant to make the changes that the game does need.
Sepp Blatter has, up to recently, been resolutely against the introduction of goal-line technology. So while tennis, cricket and rugby have embraced technological advances to make sure that important decisions are the right ones, football continues to be plagued by 'Was the ball over the line?' controversies.
So, what can the FA and other malcontents do about Fifa?
You might think that the FA v Fifa is a very new battle. In fact it goes back a long way. The rest of Europe, tired of waiting for England to form an international body to govern football, set up Fifa - without FA representation - in 1904. A year later the FA did join, but the relationship was fraught from the start, with Fifa refusing membership to the Scottish and Irish associations for fear that they would be puppets of the FA.
The FA broke away from Fifa after World War One, and again in 1927, only returning after World War Two.
But while another walk-out might seem tempting today, it would come with a very high price: the English national team would be suspended from international football and English clubs banned from the Champions League.
The latter is unthinkable - both from the point of view of fans and from the clubs, hungry for the cash the big European fixtures bring in.
So, the only option would be for the FA to work with other football associations dissatisfied with the status quo and attempt to form a new, alternative 'Fifa'.
Fifteen countries, alongside England, consciously voted against Sepp Blatter in Zurich this week - including Scotland, Norway, Liberia and Uganda (Vietnam apparently pressed the wrong button by mistake).
The key for England would be to gain the support of three of four of the bigger football nations - certainly Germany, certainly one or two of the burgeoning footballing powers from Africa and Asia - who might join England in fighting what Graham Taylor called an "insular, undemocratic and untrustworthy organisation".
There is no reason why world football should be governed by just one body.
"In a relatively short history, Fifa has gained enough support and respect to survive any attempts to create splinter groups". Those words were true enough when written back in 1973, but much less so today. ·
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