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FA edging closer to abstention in Fifa presidential election

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David Bond | 16:25 UK time, Friday, 13 May 2011

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

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    don't bother posting here. the author will remove your post for no obvious reason.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Can I ask what the voting intentions of the SFA and the FAW or the IFA are? Did the author find out or is the EBC only interested in reporting on English issues?

  • Comment number 4.

    @1; @2
    Sleep. Pills if necessary.

    Abstention looks like the way to go here. I'm no fan of the FA, although Bernstein is probably a good person to take it forward. But this FIFA election doesn't offer any choice at all. Fingers crossed that one day Platini (yes, I know nobody on these blogs likes him, yes I know he cares about football) takes this post. Not sure about your point about abstaining noisily. Why not just take a back seat?

  • Comment number 5.

    surely a minimum majority of 205 is 103 not 105?

  • Comment number 6.

    Bernstein has in his short tenure shown himself up to be a hypocritical clown, so don't be surprised if he votes in Blatter, after all, 'fools are never parted'.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ironically post 2 suggests that there is probably a very obvious reason for tecknocat getting his posts removed.
    As to the blog I'm no fan of the FA but in this case they are probably pursuing the right course since the choice on offer seems to be akin to being asked whether you would rather be shot or hung.

  • Comment number 8.

    So in other words any actions, or inactions will probably mean Sweet FA.

    Oh, someone had a sense of humour when deciding on what our ruling body should be called.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think you've alluded to the problem towards the end of the blog.

    One nation = one vote.

    Therefore the likes of Bhutan, Barbados and Guam can club together and outvote France and Spain's votes. No wonder the system is ripe for corruption.

    I don't mean to disparage football in those countries, and I believe in a democratic process, but the fact that Blatter and his army of PR people can sweet talk a bunch of third-world countries into voting against major powers in global football is a joke. He could essentially get re-elected without the backing of the FAs who provide about 90% of Fifa's overall income.

    I think the voting system needs to be reformed so that it takes into account the relative strength (both politically, socially and economically) of the respective FA's. It would completely stop vote canvassing in countries with high levels of corruption.

  • Comment number 10.

    How much stronger a position would the FA be in if they'd put forward their own reform candidate?

    The hugely positive reception ChangeFIFA ( ) and Grant Wahl's ( ) refreshing campaigns have received prove there's an appetite amongst fans for the FA to rock the boat, regardless of the consequences and, as the blog says, we've really very little to lose in doing so.

    Since the FA weren't brave enough to put forward a reform candidate despite having nothing to lose, it seems now abstention is the only paletable option.

    Backing a man accused of handing out bribes, or worse, the man who has overseen this period in FIFA's existence, in which A THIRD of the ExCo are knee-deep in corruption accusations, are not options. Surely Bernstein can see this.

    Spoil the ballot and deal with the consequences afterwards.

  • Comment number 11.

  • Comment number 12.

    Seriously, what is the point in discussing alleged corruption on this blog, when virtually any posts that might be considered slanderous (i.e. those expressing disbelief, suspicion, or aversion towards FIFA as a result of this alleged corruption) promptly disappear?

    FIFA is great. We should stick by it. No corruption has been proven, and none will be, and the organisation is therefore clear, and everyone should just forget about it. Also, whoever moderates this blogs must be a genius.

  • Comment number 13.

    If one forgets about football for a second .. and then consider the relative position of ALL the voting countries regarding the general level of poverty and corruption in their respective countries then it is a dream that countries will vote impartially. Corruption and kickbacks are a way of life .. have you ever seen a poor country ran by a POOR leader ,,, of course their votes are bought .... end of story. If you do not believe that then how did Russia and Qatar get the world cups.
    One country has to heat their stadiums .. and the other needs to cool them haha! . Yes .. it's a joke ... but not too far away from fact .......

  • Comment number 14.

    So what would everyone here say if we played the same game ,,,, it's the only way we will ever gat another world cup ... having your picture taken with Beckham and a Prince does not cut it !! But of course the problem with our country is that people still do not really see what is going on .. and they would tear anyone down from England that played that game and got caught out !! ... I seriously wonder when people in Britain will ever wake up to what is a fact of life in 90% of countries around the world! .....

  • Comment number 15.

    So Britain's not corrupt? What do you call political donations, for example?

  • Comment number 16.

    Debatable ,,,, I was talking football only haha! .. I did not want to get politics mixed up in case of blog censorship ,,,, I entirely agree with you ,,, we can compete with the best in that department :-)

  • Comment number 17.

    nice one, yes, better leave politics out of it. so let's get out of fifa quick smart! cheers

  • Comment number 18.

    no moderations in the first 17 posts. is that a record david? i bet this comment dissapears...

    I can't believe Blatter is going for another term. If he's 75 now, he'll be 80 when he supposedly finishes and I'd put good money on him not being around by the time Qatar finally do host the World Cup. Madness.

  • Comment number 19.

    It’s clear from the above blog that FIFA's voting system needs to be reformed. However, would turkeys really vote for Christmas? Reformation of FIFA will be a lengthy concentrated and consistent effort on the part of the federations that are disillusioned with the autocracy. Any candidate that is put forward would need to be from outside the FIFA circus, to have any real impact.

    I must ask would there be this discussion if England had won the 2018 bid?
    There seems to be this assumption that just because we are English/British that our national identity somehow instils fair play in all matters sporting. Frankly other nations for the most part clearly do not believe this about their national sporting identity, never mind the internal ethics of Britain’s sporting persona. Like Aarfy_Aardvark stated if you have one transferable vote then you will always open the door to the less scrupulous despots who pledge support to the incumbent if they believe they will receive something beneficial.

    Finally, if we did get reform that truly represent the major nations in world football what would be the long term view of the reformers other than that the establishment hosting the World Cup every 4 years? Are we going to look inward and only have the World Cup outside its traditional arena’s as follies every 20 years, as a way paying a token gesture to the rest of the world that we value their participation? The right not to vote is quite frankly a ridiculous notion simply because whoever wins the election the mud from the allegations will most likely stick be them guilty or not. Patience and a consistent message of change is required at FIFA’s Ivorian tower.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm beginning to get the feeling that BBC's SPORTS Editor is only interested in football...or more specifically, the world governing body of football. This is the 3rd blog in a row about FIFA. I know the English are upset about 2018. But that's all done and dusted now and you need to move on. And anyway isn't the BBC supposed to be above all that?
    I do agree with one line the blog, "The truth is whatever the FA does will have little or no effect on the outcome of this election." Now if you can expand that notion to all sports and then to almost all areas, politics,business,environment etc., then maybe you will begin to understand how insignificant the UK is. Nobody give a monkey's about what the UK thinks or does. I would suggest that it is high time the UK starts looking at other countries and following what they do. Or else, shut up.

  • Comment number 21.

    I really think FIFA is a complete nasty joke ,,,, I would suggest that for example the top 5 countries in terme of providing income to FIFA get their heads together and do something about the flagrant abuse of their money ... This is not just about England.

  • Comment number 22.

    @ 20

    "I would suggest that it is high time the UK starts looking at other countries and following what they do"

    WOW! thats the last thing we should do, remember Iraq and Afghanistan?? Lets not be sheep! lets be a country that makes our own decisions on what is right, not on what is wrong!!!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    Neither, but as has been mentioned, will it make any difference? And if we abstain, aren't we saying we don't believe in FIFA, and, in which case, we should pull out? But I just don't see that as an option, unless some other powerhouses would join us.

    #9, aarfy aardvark has pinpointed one of the problems, and how ironic is it that this argument calls for proportional representation so the land of the 'winner takes all' gets a 'fairer' deal? And how ironic is it that the current voting system buys the least populous and/or smaller FAs undue influence, often the criticism thrown at PR (no pun intended with aarfy aardvaark's PR!)?

    Finally, #3, Opprobrium, has a good point about our ignoring what the other British FA's have to say about this, but is that the way they prefer it, because, as has been reported this week, they have a Dickensian influence on FIFA? It's all well and good asking for FIFA reforms, while at the same time continuing to try and pull the wool over world football's eyes about privileges born out of the 19th century.

  • Comment number 24.

    When is someone going to stand up and remove Blatter....he is a disgrace.
    Football is corrupt from top to bottom, we all know it but no one wants to do anything about it.
    Now that the election is coming up, Blatter is making promises that he will never keep.

  • Comment number 25.

    @12. brilliant. unfortunalely the irony will be lost on our brainiac mod...

  • Comment number 26.

    Blatter's choice of verbiage is interesting. Bin Hammam is Black, and I noticed that Blatter claims that voting the Qatari in will lead football into a "black hole". Blatter is Swiss, of course, and I have not forgotten the similar usage of "Black sheep" in that country's elections a couple years ago, to refer to non-Whites.
    Or maybe I am just being paranoid.
    The FA will abstain, the better to keep FIFA's leadership in Europe. It is a shame that despite the many scandals in FIFA, UEFA still stands by Blatter - as will many of the African federations, such is Blatter's legacy of handouts to national associations in the region. Bin Hammam would have been a great choice - despite the FA's sour grapes at not winning the hosting rights, everyone knew the England bid was doomed from the start. They received only what, two votes? Surely not everyone on the committee was angling for a knighthood or a bribe?
    Bin Hammam is the better choice. But it wont happen, will it?

  • Comment number 27.

    #20 Nonenglish - I recommend everybody reads his posting history, they're absolutely hilarious. His English is poor and he moans about the funniest things.

  • Comment number 28.

    I would disagree with #20 on most things.....BUT......the F.A. is a joke.
    I am sure that Sepp Blatter is one of their advisors.

  • Comment number 29.

    folk are down on the FA, why? they're just a bunch of old school ties, it aint they're fault FIFA hate England (they do). it goes way back to england boycotting the first world cups

    The key point for me is why only 2 candidates? there should be 22.

    The job is easy. all u gotta do is dish out a WC every few years and make sure the game is not ruined by 3rd umpire typr refferals.

    UEFA is where the real power is. If UEFA dont want a change no change will occur.

    I'd give it to Andy Townshend.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    Alas, #1, you may have written the truth (or one of the moderators is a Stoke fan).

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    Delete this comment as well.

    We live in a age where you can't say anything anymore. Well done!

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.

    As a part Welsh part Englishman its time we stopped this foolish separation in football.
    Imagine a team with most of the English guys but also the likes Giggs and the odd Scot and Irishman and we might get there.
    It might be interesting to run a separate blog on what a combined UK team would be like. In the past players like Best Kenny Dalgeish and Dennis Law and currently Ferguson and formerly Mark Hughes and Toshak and the Keanes.
    There might have been a few more world cups and certainly the odd European cup.
    There is no doubt who the manager would be and that would have to have been Matt Busby before and now Sir Alex Ferguson now that would be a world beater but guess which team I follow!
    I reckon it would be up there with the best.

  • Comment number 36.

    Lets hope that nothing illegal happens with the voting but it is a shame there are not more candidates. The voting should be open so everyone knows who voted for whom as the electors are representatives not individuals. That way there would be less chance of underhand arraingements

  • Comment number 37.

    35. At 04:41a.m. 15th May 2011, dussalaamj wrote:
    UK team would be like. In the past players like Best Kenny Dalgeish and Dennis Law and currently Ferguson and formerly Mark Hughes and Toshak and the Keanes.

    The Keanes , as you put it ,are Irish , from Ireland (you know , the place the Queen is visiting) not the UK , so even if there was a "combined UK team " they would not be on it . Love to now how polite Roy Keane would be about saying no , after what he said to McCarthy it might be interesting .
    Or how about an EU team to make things more extreme .

    As to the point abstaine its one over the other , as I stated before another way would be the use of the Home Nations votes on the IFAB . Leverage is the key to this , without the 4 votes of the 4 FAs FIFA cannot introduce new rules or change them , a case maybe for change is good for you.


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