When Will the Rogue Resign? Blatter and FIFA

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“Excited to be at FIFA meeting Sepp Blatter to secure the #NorthKorea2026 World Cup.” – Simon Brodkin[1]

Even he admitted it. Having ridden roughshod over those who questioned his authority to be at the helm of the world’s most famed sports mafia enterprise, Sepp Blatter decided to resign from his position as FIFA head. Only, he hasn’t.

It is worth recalling what he said at his so-called conference of intended departure: “While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we do in FIFA.”

But he has remained resolutely fastened to his chair. After all, he seems to be saying, someone needs to run the rotten show till the next one succeeds him. Rather than making his resignation effective immediately, he cloaked his conduct in the behaviour of one who steers the ship. He had, in the same conference, promised to “lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective congress.” Of course, he would “continue to exercise [his] functions as FIFA president till that election.”

A few days ago, Blatter pushed the date further forwards: “On the 26th of February FIFA will have a new president.” Just to throw in his own measure of infallible logic, Blatter noted that, “I cannot be the new president because I am the old president.”[2] Fine and good, till one realises that his announcement that he would resign has not actually been implemented. Considerable time has lapsed – the announcement was made at the start of June and there is much mayhem to be caused till February next year.

Blatter’s instinctive reaction was to always to remain like a barnacle on a holed ship. On Swiss television at the end of May, he asked rhetorically why he should step down. For him, the answer was obvious, though he still forced it out. “That would mean I recognise that I did wrong.”

The intervention of US Attorney-General Loretta Lynch, and a range of other law enforcement authorities including the FBI, who had the supergrass Chuck Blazer to thank for, put pay to that suggestion. Few who witnessed the moment will forget the dragging out of seven top FIFA officials from their beds, concealed by the fine linen of Zurich’s Baur au Lac hotel, and sped away to be indicted on charges of fraud, money laundering and racketeering.

Blatter’s exculpatory response was predictable as much as it was absurd: “I cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it.” Expertise in this line counts.

The mafia enterprise has gone into institutional retreat, but tactically so. It should be remembered that a well deserved, and perhaps necessary schism has been avoided. There has been no rival anti-FIFA footballing organization established. Instead, that odious body continues to set the agenda, set the pace. Diseased, it continues to function, without splinter, without rupture, without even a whiff of reform. FIFA has given would-be-candidates, and Blatter, considerable breathing space. Applications of interest will be received till October 26.

Blatter himself has also been careful about leaving Switzerland since extradition proceedings against the seven football officials began. He did not present at the Women’s World Cup in July, the first time he has not done so since becoming president in 1998. He is on record as wanting to avoid “travel risks” given the recent legal storm.[3]

This is unlikely to trouble him in Russia, where he is due to make the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup. Blatter has Vladimir Putin’s word of reassurance on where he stands. The FBI raids were described by the Russian President as an attempt on the part of the FBI to meddle in “other jurisdictions”. Appropriately, Blatter has himself become a political football.

It was precisely such obstinate behaviour on Blatter’s part that led British comedian Simon Brodkin to engage a level of considerable high jinks. The account of that event has now smoked the entire social media circuit: Brodkin, using his stage name, decided to go the mile as one of his characters, Jason Bent.

Bent managed, remarkably, to place a pile of fake banknotes on the desk next to Blatter, having announced himself as a delegate from North Korea’s 2026 World Cup bid. On being led away by security, he threw more handy notes over the alarmed president. How the North Koreans respond remains to be seen.

A police spokesman explained that the comedian “will be charged for trespassing because we wasn’t allowed to enter the building… If there will be a trial it is still to be decided by the prosecutor. Trespassing in Switzerland is just prosecuted by request like other minor crimes.”[4]

And so it happens that offences committed, when small in measure, register more disdain than grand acts of collusion. The old Bertolt Brecht expression about banks comes to mind: “What is the robbing of a bank compared to a founding of a bank?” Thefts of institutions is one thing; institutions of theft, another. And Blatter certain knows a thing or two about how that works.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email:[email protected]

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Articles by: Dr. Binoy Kampmark

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