David Bernstein defends FA stance on Fifa election

Football Association chairman David Bernstein said he did the right thing trying to delay Sepp Blatter's unopposed re-election as Fifa chief.

The FA tried to have the election postponed because of the ongoing corruption row but the idea was strongly rejected by Fifa delegates.

"I think it was worth it; we made an important point of principle," he said.

"We felt a coronation wasn't appropriate given what's happening at Fifa."

After Blatter's only rival for the presidency, Mohamed Bin Hammam, was forced to step down because of corruption allegations, the English and Scottish Football Associations launched a bid to halt the election so that the allegations, which involved several leading figures in Fifa, could be investigated.

But their efforts to delay the vote failed in spectacular fashion as they lost 172-17.

Football Association 'optimistic' of Fifa change

After Bernstein's address to delegates was given a distinctly cool reception, a succession of speakers criticised his efforts to delay the vote.

But despite his plan failing, and Blatter's resounding re-election in the subsequent vote , Bernstein said the FA had definitely done the right thing and had produced real results.

"I think there's been some movement in terms of greater democracy, in terms of congress being involved in things such as World Cup country selection rather than the Executive Committee , so I think there's been some movement and we're partly responsible for that," the FA chairman added.

He also claimed that his suggestions had more public support than had been expressed.

"When you talk to people informally there's a great deal of support," he stated.

"The problem at Fifa is that people are scared to put their heads above the parapet. There's quite a groundswell of support but you have to talk to people privately to understand that."

FA general secretary Alex Horne said he was amazed by the vehemence of the reaction their proposals had received, particularly from Argentine delegate Julio Grondona and Spain's Angel Villar-Llona.

"I was a bit surprised, but once a couple of people had got up and said it they poured more vitriol on to us," he said.

"I was certainly surprised that Grondona and Villa Llona went on, rambling about politicians and journalists."

Analysis

England have once again been marginalised on Fifa's world stage. After making his lone appeal to postpone the re-election of Sepp Blatter, FA chairman David Bernstein could only watch as, one by one, delegates from the rest of the world took it in turn to attack the FA's last-minute move

The Scottish Football Association, who were one of those to support the FA in their bid to delay the presidential vote, say they have been encouraged by moves towards a more transparent form of governance within Fifa.

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan said: "We must all now work hard together to improve the image and reputation of the world game, which has been damaged by the recent events.

"While we accept and understand that the Fifa statutes allowed for the election of a single presidential candidate, our request for a postponement was made primarily to enable a line to be drawn under the speculation and accusations that clouded the congress and undermined the election process."

But Sir Bobby Charlton, who was one of the England 2018 World Cup bid ambassadors, said the FA's attempts to postpone the voting had left their reputation "slightly" damaged.

"Blatter has promised there will be lots and lots of efforts put into putting right what they have always been criticised for so I can only hope that he does," Charlton told the BBC. "Fifa's reputation has been damaged but they seemed fairly happy in the end."

When asked about the FA's stance, Charlton replied: "In hindsight, I don't think much would have changed and it has slightly damaged our reputation."

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson backed the FA's actions, and said it deserved praise for taking an unpopular stance.

"I think there are people who are saying the FA have taken a very bold lead and I suspect there are a lot of football associations round the world who are not terribly pleased with them for doing that," Robertson commented.

"I absolutely support what the FA have done. I think it is entirely the right action. It is harsh to criticise them for not doing that earlier.

"The pace of events was such that they could only make the intervention they did at the time that they did. Actually, they deserve our support today."