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SBD Global/June 12, 2014/International Football

UEFA President Michel Platini Backs European Revolt Against FIFA President Blatter

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UEFA President Michel Platini attends the 64th FIFA Congress on Wednesday.
UEFA President Michel Platini "gave his backing to a European revolt" against FIFA President Sepp Blatter as the pressure on Blatter intensified on the eve of the World Cup finals, according to James Ducker of the LONDON TIMES. FA Chair Greg Dyke "was at the forefront of the co-ordinated attack over Blatter’s U-turn on his promise to stand down" in '15. He branded as "offensive" and "totally unacceptable" Blatter’s claims that the allegations of corruption surrounding the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid were driven by the "racism and discrimination" of the British media. Dyke’s attack on Blatter "was publicly supported" by FA vice-Chair and UEFA Exec Committee Member David Gill and Dutch FA President Michael van Praag. When asked about the response to Blatter, Platini replied, "I was very proud of the Europeans" (LONDON TIMES, 6/11). The PA's Martyn Ziegler wrote Dyke added that it was important to clarify whether FIFA Chief Investigator Michael Garcia "has had access to the files of documents obtained by the Sunday Times alleging corruption in World Cup bidding" (PA, 6/11).

START THE FESTIVITIES: The AFP reported Blatter officially opened FIFA’s annual congress at a gala in Sao Paulo on Tuesday night "without mentioning the attacks or corruption controversy." Blatter: "Tonight we are in a festive mood because let’s say the discussions and all of what’s linked with FIFA and is so important nowadays." Platini "has been touted as a possible rival to Blatter "when the FIFA vote is held in May next year. Platini said that "he will only decide his candidacy in September" (AFP, 6/11). BEIN SPORTS reported Blatter "has hit back at calls for him to step down next year, and called for focus on the upcoming World Cup instead." Blatter: "What we need in this perturbed world, and through this World Cup and during the 32 days it is our wish, at least with our footballs, with our organization of the institution that all belligerent activities should stop in this day. And beyond then should stop and then all would be focused on football connecting people and constructing bridges" (BEIN SPORTS, 6/11).

'MAFIA FAMILY': In London, Tom Farmery reported former FA Chair David Triesman said FIFA is a "mafia family" and its president acts like Don Corleone. Triesman made his comments on the same day that Blatter delivered a speech in São Paulo, "which, rather than addressing allegations of corruption, instead praised his organisation’s integrity." Triesman said that FIFA “behaves like a mafia family” and “has a decades-long tradition of bribes, bungs and corruption." He said, “Don Corleone, I believe, would have recognized the tactics and he probably would have admired them. About half of its executive committee who voted on the last World Cup have had to go. Even its past president Joao Havelange has been removed from his honorary life presidency in his 90s." Triesman "was speaking during a debate on the Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords." Meanwhile in Brazil, Blatter "was delivering a speech" to the 64th FIFA Congress. Blatter: "We must carry the flame of honesty and responsibility and always with respect. If we do not we will betray the true spirit of this game we all love. Ladies and gentleman we must lead by example and we must listen to all voices" (LONDON TIMES, 6/11).

QATAR TO KEEP CUP? REUTERS' Mike Collett reported some FIFA insiders, who were not willing to speak on the record, said that "they believed events in Sao Paulo pointed to the increasing likelihood that Qatar would not have the World Cup taken away from it." To do so "would be a huge blow to the organisation's reputation, not to mention that of its president." A senior FIFA official said, "Mr. Blatter knows there is an election next year and there is little doubt he is going to stand for another term. If he controls the (African and Asian) confederations' votes, and stands by Qatar, there is very little chance of him losing this vote." A member of FIFA's exec committee added, "If he wants to be president and keep faith with the delegates who are clearly backing him, the World Cup will be in Qatar. It will not be moved" (REUTERS, 6/11). In London, David Conn wrote fair play, to coin a phrase, to Dyke, Gill, Platini and other senior figures of European football "for standing up to the global game’s tarnished chief," Blatter, and his "bare-faced plan to stand for another four years" as FIFA president. Yet "now they have to show they mean it." That "they really do want to see the end of the hideous dishonesty disfiguring a great sport, that they have the stomach for an actual fight, that they will work on a credible plan to overthrow Blatter and fumigate Fifa." Platini "is considered unlikely to stand." He "has looked at the prospect, of taking on a man whose power has been entrenched by the corrupt, unaccountable system itself, and balked." Platini is said to believe he will do better staying at UEFA and continuing work "which can at least achieve something, rather than take on a probable losing battle with Blatter" (GUARDIAN, 6/11).

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES: In London, John Gapper wrote the contrast between FIFA’s "cronyism, managerial entrenchment and corruption," and its achievement in spreading the British version of football around the world "is striking." It demonstrates that FIFA "has enormous strengths as well as egregious weaknesses." The intriguing thing about FIFA is that a Swiss non-governmental organization, "which has operated in an unaccountable way, with a highly conflicted (and in some cases corrupt) relationship between its leaders and the football associations that are its closest equivalent to shareholders, has done so well." FIFA has "has two competitive advantages" over U.S. sporting bodies. The first is that football is integrated -- "amateur and professional games are unified through associations." FIFA’s second advantage is that "it is truly multinational" -- it launched a sustained push into emerging markets before U.S. and European multinationals such as Coca-Cola and adidas, two of the big World Cup sponsors. It "adjusted early to the shift in the global economy." FIFA’s advantages has given football strength in depth and reach, "and transformed the World Cup into a global tournament on a par with the Olympic Games." All of this "could be undermined" by FIFA’s flaws (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/11). In Sydney, Andrew Webster wrote "it is a festival many do not want, but most of Brazil still desperately wants to win." FIFA can go home -- "but we'll keep that gold trophy, thanks very much." For all the negativity surrounding this World Cup --- from tear gas being used to quell striking rail workers in Sao Paulo on Monday to unfinished stadiums -- "it does not stop the pressure mounting on Brazil to win it." Neymar: "The goal is to win the World Cup. We know that there is a tremendous amount of pressure, it's almost an obligation" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/11).
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