This Friday delegates from world football’s governing body, Fifa, will meet to decide not only upon a new president to replace Sepp Blatter, but crucially a set of reforms that it is hoped will enable the organisation to draw a line under Blatter’s eighteen-year reign and the scandal that has engulfed it since May of last year.
On Wednesday, Fifa’s Executive Committee approved these reforms, including limits on the terms that a president and top officials can serve, salary disclosures and more rigorous checks on executive members.
Crucially, these reforms include efforts to increase the number of women on the new Fifa Council to at least six, and a commitment to constitute gender equality within the legislative bodies of the six confederations and their individual members.
While these reforms will be discussed at Friday’s Extraordinary Congress, Dr David Webber, a lecturer in sport and politics at the University of Warwick, expects them to be passed before attention turns to the election of Blatter’s successor.
Dr Webber commented:
“Although piecemeal, these measures are a step in the right direction. The commitment to increased gender equality is a token but welcome riposte to the endemic sexism that runs throughout the men’s game.
"Fifa has a long way to go before it can finally step out of the shadow of its murky past. Fifa’s corruption does not begin and end with Sepp Blatter, and systemic reform is necessary before any credibility can be restored to the organisation.”
Commenting upon the two favourites to replace the disgraced former president, Dr Webber added:
“At this stage, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain is still the front runner. However, big question marks still surround his candidacy. In 2014 he urged the public ‘not to take too seriously’ Qatar’s use of slaves in the construction of its World Cup stadia, while claims continue to be made of his own alleged complicity in the torture of pro-democracy athletes during the Arab Spring.
“To replace one leader accused of corruption with one prepared to turn a blind-eye to and perhaps even be guilty of human rights abuses himself is scarcely imaginable. It is astonishing that Sheikh Salman has been allowed anywhere near the ballot paper let alone claim that he will bring ‘moral and ethical change’ to Fifa.
“Gianni Infantino, Uefa’s super-sub, on to replace the disgraced French supremo, Michel Platini, is an amiable enough candidate, but his proximity to his former boss raises suspicions that we will see more of the same were he to be elected.
“Bizarrely, Infantino has never ruled out making Blatter an honorary president and in his own role as Uefa’s General Secretary, has been impervious to criticism or reform of European football’s governing body. Infantino therefore hardly represents the figurehead for change that Fifa so desperately needs.
“With the other candidates, including Blatter’s former rival, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, unlikely to secure the support required, Fifa and world football is facing a decisive election bereft of the leadership necessary to deliver the root-and-branch reform that the organisation so desperately needs.”
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