FA edging closer to abstention in Fifa presidential election
Next week the FA board will meet to decide their choice in June's Fifa presidential election contest. They have two candidates to choose from.
Sepp Blatter, the incumbent who has overseen 13 years of commercial growth accompanied by the constant whiff of scandal.
Or Mohamed Bin Hammam, the head of Asian football and a Fifa executive since 1996. He was also a key player in Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid and a close friend of a middleman who was this week accused in parliament of handing out bribes of $1.5m (£926,000) to African Fifa members on behalf of Qatar.
Some choice. Given the circumstances it's no surprise that the FA's chairman David Bernstein is coming around to the idea of a third option - abstention.
Bin Hammam faces a real battle if he's to oust Sepp Blatter as President of Fifa. Photos: AFP/Reuters
There are several reasons for this. Voting for Blatter after the World Cup vote last December is a non-starter. While backing the favourite might help build bridges in Fifa after the nightmare of Zurich, it would get a lousy run in the court of public opinion. The FA made a lot of noise about changing Fifa in the immediate aftermath of the decision and people will simply not wear backing a man who is seen (rightly or wrongly) as responsible for that humiliation.
With that in mind, the obvious thing would be to support Bin Hammam, the coming man who is promising to make changes to the way Fifa is run and open up the organisation and the decisions it makes to greater public scrutiny. He also has a good relationship with the Premier League and their FA representatives will no doubt argue his case.
But after so long at Fifa is Bin Hammam really the great reformer? And whatever the truth of these latest allegations involving Qatar, the nagging doubts over that extraordinary decision make it even harder to for the FA to throw its full support behind him.
Add to all that the FA's own investigation into Lord Triesman's allegations and you can see why David Bernstein is edging closer and closer to spoiling his ballot paper next month.
The last time Blatter faced an election contest back in 2002, the FA's chief executive Adam Crozier miscalculated badly. He made a speech at the congress in Seoul attacking Blatter and Fifa in the hope that Issa Hayatou (who incidentally stands accused of receiving his share of a $1.5m (£926,000) kickback to vote for Qatar) would replace him on a reforming ticket.
Blatter has never forgotten that. Abstaining and abstaining noisily as the FA will have to do will undoubtedly lead to repercussions whoever gets in.
So what, you might think. With no World Cup bid for at least another 10 years, the FA has little to lose.
But does the FA stand a better chance of changing Fifa by staying inside the tent and trying to bring about reforms from within?
Fat chance. The truth is whatever the FA does will have little or no effect on the outcome of this election. That's because this is a contest that is decided by the 204 members of Fifa - a congress of nations which the FA enjoys hardly any influence with despite spending huge sums of money on international development in the last decade.
In the first round Blatter, who is undoubtedly the favourite, needs a two thirds majority to win - so 138 votes. Blatter has said today he is confident of getting that.
But even if he doesn't, the winner will be chosen on the basis of a simple majority in a second count meaning that, in effect, because there are only two candidates, he needs just 105 votes to win.
Uefa's executive committee has already written a letter to its members (53 votes) urging them to vote for Blatter. Concacaf - the confederation for north, central America and the Carribbean (35 votes) says it's going to vote for him en bloc as has Oceania (11 votes) and South America (10 votes).
Asia (46 votes) should be a stronghold of Bin Hammam but Blatter has been lobbying hard on the Qatari's doorstep and the continent is thought to be split.
Africa (53 votes) is the big unknown but it is believed this is where Bin Hammam enjoys his clearest support.
All of which means the FA's decision next week is little more than a piece of gesture politics.
But get it wrong and it will only add to the public sense of dissatisfaction which still lingers following the World Cup vote.