There are rumours emerging which support something that’s been gnawing away at me for the last couple of weeks. Is Sepp Blatter’s ‘resignation’ as FIFA President the biggest smokescreen ever? The man has deceived us all before, what’s to stop him doing it again?
We all know the history behind the allegations of corruption, money laundering and bribery that currently afflict FIFA so there’s no need to go into all that again. After the headlines surrounding the arrests of seven senior FIFA officials in Zurich on May 27th the demand was clear; Sepp Blatter had to go.
Seemingly, on June 2nd the world got what it had demanded when he made a surprise speech. Within seconds, the headlines ripped across social media and the message was shouted loud and clear across the airwaves.
But did he? Well no, actually he didn’t.
On June 2nd, Sepp Blatter did not say he was resigning. The word (or any grammatical variation) does not appear anywhere in his speech.
You can read the full transcript on the FIFA website here. but for general reference, here’s some of the language he used:
“While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football…..”
“Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election.”
To be clear, he also talks about the; “election of my successor” and also says: “I shall not be a candidate” but don’t be fooled. Four years ago, Mr. Blatter said the same thing.
At a UEFA Congress in March 2011, he said if he was re-elected in the Presidential vote in May – which he was – he would stand down in 2015. He said: “You know I aspire to another four years…. but these will be the last years for which I stand as candidate.”
Was it an outright lie? Or did he merely change his mind? Either way, the man cannot be trusted even at this most critical time for FIFA.
Remember, the one thing Mr. Blatter definitely isn’t is stupid. Three weeks ago, his ‘resignation’ speech was carefully worded and eased the incredible pressure on him by giving the people what they wanted – without giving the people what they wanted.
Look what happened afterwards. The world focused on FIFA and its future, not Sepp Blatter. Since he spoke, the ‘noise’ has been dissipated by announcements and stories that project the focus forward and take the heat off Mr. Blatter.
- Sepp Blatter’s daughter played the emotional card
- Senior FIFA official Domenico Scala took centre stage to organise the required EGM
- Great noise was made of the announcement of a special meeting in July to accelerate the staging of the EGM
- FIFA’s Director Of Communications Walter De Gregorio left his post in a blaze of publicity supposedly because of a misguided joke about Sepp Blatter during a TV interview.
That last piece of news was interesting, FIFA’s Director of Communications is always the ‘go to’ person. The official who is wheeled out for the media when it suits. Was Mr. De Gregorio a dissenting voice within the FIFA corridors? Did he leave because he refused to be the mouthpiece for a grand plan he felt he couldn’t publicly represent?
Meanwhile, Sepp Blatter is able to work quietly behind the scenes and plot his next moves. Of course, he still has the little matter of an FBI investigation to contend with which is not a small consideration but what if the FBI’s enquiries lead to doors other than his? There’s currently serious implication but certainly nothing concrete and with the pressure off, the sacrificial lambs can be lined up to be thrown to the wolves to satiate the demand. History suggests that’s what happens regularly at FIFA. When the pressure is on, someone else takes the fall and Sepp Blatter shows the world he’s a strong President. None of the mud ever sticks. Perhaps it will this time, but what if it doesn’t?
Whatever he’s said in the past, we all know Mr. Blatter wanted a fifth term as President. We also know he weaved his ‘magic’ with FIFA members who were beholden to him. Some became permanent allies for previous, favourable decisions, some for being granted development money for their countries. Actions that ensured he got the votes he needed on May 29th.
As Sepp says himself, he was given a mandate by FIFA’s voting members, so what’s the chance of those members miraculously ‘announcing’ that their mandate must be heard and ‘persuading’ Sepp Blatter to stand again because he was – and is – their chosen representative? The rumours suggest that could indeed be happening and it’s a frightening prospect.
All Sepp Blatter has said is he is laying down his mandate. It’ll be easy to say he’s merely listened to the will of his members and is picking it up again on their behalf.
Sepp Blatter is clever, Sepp Blatter and his legal team are calculating. Sepp Blatter never says or does anything without considering the end game.
So, with all that in mind, consider the statement he made June 4th, two days after that apparently momentous speech.
“I had a good, constructive meeting with Mr. Scala to establish a framework for action and a timetable. I am pleased to take advice and guidance from Mr. Scala. I want a comprehensive programme of reform and I am very aware that only the FIFA Congress can pass these reforms…”
See where I’m coming from? Suddenly, the language takes on a potentially different tone. Sepp Blatter is still prepared to take advice and guidance and only FIFA 209 voters -133 who have already voted for him – can decide on the future path. What’s to stop him from taking ‘advice and guidance’ from them?
One thing I’ve learned in my recent dealings within the world of FIFA is that Sepp Blatter is a cunning fox and nothing, absolutely nothing would surprise me.