Hitting the Sore Spots: Politics and the Weather

By Hughes, Rob | International Herald Tribune, January 31, 2013 | Go to article overview

Hitting the Sore Spots: Politics and the Weather


Hughes, Rob, International Herald Tribune


The laws of the global game remain FIFA's to impose. But while there is a vacuum of leadership, three of the principle European nations in soccer appear to be making their own arrangements.

Who governs soccer?

The answer should be simple. Some 209 countries or territories are signed up to FIFA, the world ruling body, and ordinarily its rule should be final.

But these are not ordinary times.

FIFA, based in Switzerland, is under internal investigation. Its authority will be compromised until it fully answers accusations of corruption in the process that granted World Cup staging rights to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 -- and unless its own presidential election process is proved to be above suspicion.

Even so, the laws of the global game remain FIFA's to impose. But while there is a vacuum of leadership, three of the principle European countries in soccer appear to be making their own arrangements.

England, which wrote the modern rule book, is tearing itself apart. It has a thriving Premier League, the envy of the world. But its Parliament is currently trying to dictate to the Football Association, the oldest soccer association on earth, just how it should run the sport.

And that -- political interference -- is against the first statute in FIFA.

Meanwhile, France, where FIFA was formed more than a century ago, is a hotbed of accusation. France Football, the magazine that shares with FIFA the awarding of the annual Ballons d'Or to the best players, carried a 15-page cover story this week that it called "Le Qatargate."

Central to it is Michel Platini, the former great French player who now, as chief of the European soccer authority, UEFA, is considered a shoo-in to be the next FIFA president. France Football asserted, and Platini has denied, that his vote for Qatar 2022 was cast in 2010 with heavy political input from Nicolas Sarkozy, then the French president.

And the magazine reminded us that Sarkozy was everywhere aligning himself with the successful bid to stage the 2016 European Championship in France, which will benefit soccer in the country through rebuilt stadiums in part through state funding.

Sports politics in England and France, whatever next?

Germany is the role model of running the clubs and the national sport on sensible financial budgeting. It is not surprising that Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona coach who could have had his pick of European clubs to join this month, opted for Bayern Munich rather than teams in England, Spain or Italy -- or even the Middle East, where he was toward the end of his playing career, in Qatar.

Munich's solid base and its potential to win the Champions League in the coming years appealed to Guardiola. So, no doubt, did the fact that its main administrators all have a genuine grounding as former notable players in the game.

Chief among them is Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the chairman of Bayern, who also happens to be chairman of the European Club Association, which lobbies FIFA and UEFA for the rights of 207 member clubs. …

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