Archive for November, 2010

FIFA World Cup decisions are tainted

On Thursday 2nd December, FIFA will bring to an end the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups when the Executive Committee meets in Zurich.

This has been a flawed process in many ways.

Firstly, the decision to vote on both 2018 and 2022 venues has not been successful. The double vote was proposed by Jerome Valcke, the FIFA General Secretary, on the grounds that it would increase the revenue FIFA would gain from marketing.

The commercial aspect of the decision has been undermined by the fact that it has allowed collusion between bids for the two competitions. Arrangements are alleged to have been made by some bids to vote for each other – a practice which is against FIFA rules.

More seriously, however, have been the allegations of corruption made against some members of the FIFA Executive Committee. The Sunday Times in London arranged an undercover operation to offer two Exco members, Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, money to vote for the American bid for, at that time, 2018 and 2022.

US Soccer were not involved in any way with the sting but both men took the bait and were filmed agreeing to accept money to vote for the US bid.

After an investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee, they were found guilty and suspended.

Four senior members of other FIFA committees were also filmed agreeing to try to influence the result and were also suspended and banned.

Two former employees, Michel Zen Ruffinen and Michel Bachini were declared ‘persona non grata’ after making comments to the undercover team.

A Panorama programme on 29th November alleged that in 1999 three other members of the Executive Committee, Issa Hayatou, Ricardo Teixeira and Nicolas Leon had received bribes from ISL, the marketing company which bought and distributed the right to future World Cups.  

In the same programme, Jack Warner, the powerful FIFA Vice President from CONCACAF, was alleged to have bought and resold tickets for the 2006 World Cup through Simpaul a travel company owned by the Warner family in Trinidad and Tobago.

Hayatou has since repudiated the accusations but the questions remain.

The above list must be a major concern to FIFA.

Of the 24 original members of the Executive Committee, two have already been suspended and another four accused of malpractice. Two of the other four who were suspended were at one time members of the FIFA Executive Committee.

There must be serious questions about the suitability of this committee to make a decision on the different bids.

After the International Olympic Committee had a major problem with corruption in the lead up to the voting for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City it totally revised its voting procedures to ensure honest voting.

It is too late to change for 2018 and 2022 but the present procedures are totally flawed and must be radically altered.

‘May the best bid win’ – forget it.

No matter who wins, the result is tainted.

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Free speech comes at a price

BBC broadcast a special Panorama programme tonight dealing with alleged corruption by four members of the FIFA Executive Committee – Vice Presidents Jack Warner of CONCACAF and  Issa Hayatou of CAF and members Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil and Dr Nicolas Leon of Paraguay.

Three were accused of receiving vast payments from ISL, the marketing company which dealt with FIFA World Cup contracts before it went bankrupt in 2001 and the fourth was accused of receiving payments from the illegal sale of World Cup tickets in 2006.

The programme was broadcast at a highly sensitive time since the vote for the host countries for World Cup 2018 and 2022 will be made on 2nd December.

Previously there had been an investigation by the Sunday Times which provided evidence that another two members of the FIFA Executive were prepared to sell their votes on the World Cup bidding.

These revelations and allegations can only harm the English bid which is the strongest overall among the other European bids for 2018 from Russia, Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands.

We live in a democracy in the UK, however, and a fundamental feature of our political system is the freedom of the media.

It will probably cost England the chance to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018 but it would be too big a price to our democracy to silence the media, no matter the feeling by many that we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

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Scottish FA must support its referees

I was in charge of refereeing in Scotland for nearly 13 years and it gives me no pleasure to see the present strike action by the top Scottish referees.

That is not to say I do not support them. I agree that action had to be taken. 

 I think the attacks on them have been excessive and are part of a much bigger agenda.

In my time at SFA I knew I could rely on the support of my two General Secretaries, Ernie Walker and Jim Farry, not just behind closed doors but also publically.

It seems to me that Celtic Football Club have been allowed to make repeated attacks, accusations and insinuations without someone in authority at the SFA coming out strongly  not only to support the referees but also publically to reprimand Celtic FC which is the main cause of the problem.

Am I being cynical in suggesting that the referee crisis has come at a good time for Celtic? They were well beaten by Rangers in the last Old Firm Derby but immediately focussed on a penalty decision by the match referee and demanded that the SFA give a full explanation why the award was given.

The answer is very simple. The referee gave a penalty kick because he thought it was a penalty kick. Do the Laws of the Game not say “ïn the opinion of the referee?” 

The Chairman of Celtic is John Reid, an experienced and formidable politician in the last Labour Government. He was able to come through the recent Celtic AGM with hardly a criticism of the fact that the club has failed to win the SPL Championship for the past two years, made the unsuccessful appointment of Tony Mowbray as manager and this year was eliminated from both the UEFA  Champions League and the Europa Cup almost before the Scottish season  had started.

In the recent Dundee United v Celtic match referee Dougie McDonald was wrong to try to cover up a mistake the way he did, but the decision was eventually correct. He did not cheat Celtic who eventually won the match.

The new Celtic coach Neil Lennon has brought a new aggression to the touchline and to his handling of the media. When he was a player he was hardly the most popular player in Scotland and he seems determined to continue in similar fashion as a manager.

Scottish football will recover from this crisis but it only if the SFA take a much stronger stance and publically supports its referees.

The new Chief Executive, Stewart Reagan and the SFA President George Peat must stand up to Celtic and must regain control of the situation.

Had they done this two months ago, the strike might never have taken place.

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The FIFA Executive will receive reports on the qualities of the European bids for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the next few days.

Leaked reports suggest that there are positives and negatives on each bid but none big enough to win the bid or lose it.

Russia, with its vast size, has a problem with the transport of large numbers of spectators during the tournament and it needs to build 17 new stadia if it is successful.

There is concern that the country’s transport and IT infrastructure could present problems.

The experience of the joint hosting of the 2002 FIFA world Cup by Korea and Japan would possibly have been a serious negative for the Spain – Portugal and Netherlands – Belgium bids.  

England would seem to have the strongest technical bid with high quality infrastructure and stadia already in place.

But that is not how the process works.

A detailed technical report does not commit the 24, or maybe 22, members of the FIFA Executive Committee to vote for a certain bidder on 2nd December.

When allegations of corruption were made against two members of the FIFA Executive Committee, the FIFA President said the process of voting must be transparent.

The full Technical Reports will not be made public, however, and the voting will still be by secret ballot.

“Transparency” is an easy word to say but FIFA must demonstrate that it knows what it means by making the maximum amount of information available to the football public.

If not, questions will always be asked about the validity of the result.

Transparency should mean what it says on the label.

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Jim Farry – a sad loss

I was very sad to learn of the death of Jim Farry, a former Chief Executive of the Scottish FA and my boss for nine years.

He was meticulous and very efficient as an administrator.

I didn’t always agree with Jim but you could be sure that he was prepared to back his staff to the full.

He was often portrayed as being bumptious and aloof but in reality he just did what he thought was best for Scottish football.

Jim was a pressman’s dream. He was never quoted as criticising some club or situation – he was quoted as “blasting”. His most memorable phrase was when he accused someone of ”Machiavellian Skulduggery.” They don’t make phrases like that anymore.

Jim was the last of a type of football administrator we will not see again in the game. He was a chief executive when the title meant what it said on the label. He was the man who drove on with the reconstruction of Hampden Park, the National Stadium, when many others opposed it.

In time however, his role came under pressure when elected officials wanted to be executive office bearers. The two positions could not co-exist. The Chief Executive came under pressure and was the one to go.

Officially he left the SFA after being found guilty of delaying the registration of a Celtic player, Jorge Cadete. In my opinion, however, he had become a target for a number of people or interest groups.

Celtic Football Club and its owner Fergus McCann were bitterly opposed to money being spent on the reconstruction of Hampden and, as the driving force behind the project, Jim was an obvious target.

Knowing Jim as a boss for nine years, I do not believe that he would deliberately act illegally against any club but he was not afraid to take the big teams on if he thought it was necessary.

His attention to detail was legendary. The text for the Technical Area in the Laws of the Game originated in the Referee Department and the Chief Executive’s Office of the Scottish FA as did the revised Rules of the International FA Board.

He died at the age of 56 but he was a major influence on Scottish football in the 27 years he worked in football administration.

Hampden Park, Scotland’s National Stadium, is there because of him.

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