THE BLOG

FIFA Remains a Laughing Stock and So Is the Idea of a World Cup Boycott

23/11/2014 22:02 GMT | Updated 23/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Another week, another nail in the coffin of FIFA's credibility. At this point, the coffin must be more iron than wood. At a point when most organisations would give up and go through wholescale reform, Sepp Blatter and co have doubled down and hidden behind a document that even their own investigator has slammed as being misleading. It's almost impressive in a way, as they insist that their house isn't on fire while the room fills with smoke around them.

There are three options. The first is that there is no corruption in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes and every report to the contrary is just an extraordinary coincidence, or a conspiracy put together by people bitter about the results of recent World Cup bids. Stop sniggering, it's possible.

The second is that FIFA are deliberately covering up evidence of corruption in their own ranks. This seems to be the most popular theory amongst those commenting on the issue. If true, it's a disgrace and should see the organisation dismantled from top to bottom and completely restructured.

The third option, possibly even more troubling than the second, is that the alleged corruption took place and was investigated with complete openness and honesty - and they failed to turn the evidence into anything actionable due to complete incompetence. The way the organisation have lagged behind on so much (remember the goalline technology mess?) shows that it's possible for them to fail to see the obvious.

So those are the options. They're honest and unfeasibly unlucky, they're corrupt or they're just a bit useless. Every one of those possibilities necessitates change, even if it just means more openness to reassure the football-watching public that nothing untoward is going on.

Former FA chairman David Bernstein is trying to gain support for a boycott of FIFA by UEFA. On its own, that means nothing - the FA have been against every move FIFA had made since the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded.

They've been almost entirely unsuccessful in gaining any traction with their complaints, a universal response of "yeah, well, sour grapes" from the international football community - none of whom were willing to risk coming out against FIFA without substantial evidence of wrongdoing.

The report released by the organisation last week, clearing their members of any wrongdoing, seems to have turned the tide - especially with Michael Garcia, the man who conducted the inquiry, slamming it as misleading.

Bundesliga president Dr. Reinhard Rauball has also hinted at a split between UEFA and FIFA if Garcia's 430-page report is not released in full, but crucially UEFA chief Michel Platini has stayed silent on the issue. As one of the men who voted for the Qatari bid, he'll take a lot of shifting on the issue.

While talk of a boycott is all very rousing and exciting, the practicalities make it incredible unlikely. It all, as ever, comes down to money. England played 10 qualifiers for the last World Cup and raked in a substantial amount of money from those, if not from the tournament itself. Would they get anything like the same crowds for two years of friendlies? Not likely.

Some countries might be able to bear the financial burdens - Germany's football landscape, for example, is quite stable - but what are the chances of England voluntarily going out to play in Albania by choice? A UEFA World Cup boycott could spell disaster for a handful of smaller football associations around Europe and Platini and co would have to take that into serious consideration if they were willing to even begin to discuss a boycott.

So, we wait. Wait and watch as football becomes even more of a laughing stock, as a 78-year-old gets ready to run unopposed for another 4-year term in charge of the sport. It's a pretty grim picture.

If it's any consolation to football fans though - it's not just your sport currently navigating a corruption minefield. The chairman of the ICC - cricket's answer to FIFA - is currently in the middle of a corruption scandal. The chairman of the ICC ethics committee has been accused of a staggering breach of the ethics he's meant to be upholding.

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