June 1st, 2011
04:30 AM ET

Bully-boy tactics making Blatter, FIFA 'family' untouchable?

Sepp Blatter prays his stranglehold can be sustained.

Take yourself back to the school playground. You may have been in with the in crowd. You may have been out on a limb. You may have been a bully. You may have been bullied. But it’s likely you recall the experience.

In or out, bully or bullied, many of us secretly loathed the clique creators while outwardly expending far too much time and energy trying to ingratiate ourselves with their inner circle. Because within that inner circle there was security and there was power.

Take yourself back to those occasions when teams were being picked in gym class. You may have been first choice. You may have been last.  I was personally in the latter category and I've never felt so isolated. I was not a sporty kid, and this, in Scottish terms, means I was not a football-playing kid. The epithet "beautiful" attached to the game never really held water with me back then. And, having since met Peter Beardsley, it doesn't hold water with me now.

I digress. My point is that, while the game ain’t exactly pretty at times, what’s happening in its corridors of power is positively grisly. Football itself may not overly excite me but FIFA fills me with morbid fascination.  Why? Because the sport’s governing body takes playground nightmares and writes them large.

We hear a lot about bullying these days, and rightly so. But in a “Glee”-free world, we’d hear more about the fact that the victims rarely overcome their adversaries – at least not in the schoolyard. What makes FIFA’s behavior so abhorrent is that, unlike with conventional school scenarios, Blattter and his buddies have the run of their schoolyard. In the worst case scenario (which we may not even be witnessing yet), there are no teachers to say “Stop!”

At school, the threat of suspension applies to all who overstep the boundaries. Suspension at FIFA certainly applies to troublemakers. But only those who make trouble for the top brass. And the top brass here have something far more powerful than popularity. They have money. Lots of it.

On team FIFA, based in Zurich, there are roughly 380 players. But the size of the squad belies its significance. FIFA raked in revenue of $4.2 billion between 2007 and 2010, according to its website. This is a cozy clique in which the average salary is $170,000 per annum. This is a secret society in which $290 million worth of expenditure can be casually classed as “Other (e.g. IT, travel, PR)” on the pages of the annual report.

FIFA unquestionably does much good in developing the game. But it also derives much gain from the developing world. There’s something rotten in the state of Switzerland.

Those who would dare try to fracture the FIFA fraternity have much to lose. In the case of national football associations, the fear is one we’ve all felt from time to time: the fear of being ostracized. No more World Cups, no more Champions Leagues, and, as a direct result, lower income and the loss of big-name players. As in the playground, and despite one’s better instincts, it’s far easier to stay on side with the winning team.

Sponsors (themselves global cash cows) may bemoan the association's manifold shortcomings. But you don't hear them bemoaning Sepp Blatter's presidency. Why squander a safe bet?

On Wednesday, Blatter will stand unopposed for FIFA 's top job. He's seen off his competition before a single vote has been cast. He's proven himself unassailable and indeed untouchable.

Blatter is, to some minds, a tyrant in the mold of those that several nations have recently taken to knocking. Acknowledging a public stirring, the English FA has asked FIFA to postpone Wednesday’s election. But its voice carries little more weight than that of the background boy, stuck playing keepy-uppy while the playground kingpins enjoy a kick-around. Until a few of those kids split from the set and question convention, schoolyard rules will remain… and the bullies will reign.

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Filed under: General • Personal musings • Sport
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Richard cobey

    who cares its soccer?

    June 1, 2011 at 6:58 am | Reply
  2. Ajibola

    Its a matter of time, the despots of Fifa like despots elsewhere will be overthrown. Incidentally this is the way a lot of National Football Associations are being run, by a clique for the benefits of their acolytes. This is such a big shame!!!

    June 1, 2011 at 7:25 am | Reply
  3. Paul

    Fifa is the den of robbers that's why Fifa needs him and He needs Fifa too even though his remaining life is getting shorter and shorter.
    Remember Him who will judges what is seen and unseen as well before you die.

    June 1, 2011 at 7:57 am | Reply
  4. Fido

    Don Blatter, head of the FIFA family, is upset that he is not given the "respect" he is due. He has made so many offers that couldn't be refused and still does not receive the respect...
    Coke, Visa, Addidas etc, do you really want to be associated with this type of corruption?

    June 1, 2011 at 8:27 am | Reply
  5. Alexander

    The Champions League is hosted by UEFA, not FIFA, which are two seperate football associations based in Switzerland...

    June 1, 2011 at 8:45 am | Reply
  6. Footballer

    As I understand it, Alexander, UEFA – while operating fairly independently of FIFA – is one of six continental confederations under the FIFA umbrella. Therefore members and indeed tournaments are directly impacted.

    June 1, 2011 at 9:01 am | Reply
  7. sportplayer

    Hey CNN, when your reporter is in ZHR can you field the question as to why a international corruption case is a internal investigation, when the rest of us, people and businesses would be subject to the Foreign Corrupt Officials Act under international law? How is it they can police themselves on such a serious offense when the rest of us would be investigated, accounts seized, e.mails checked ++++. Why is a non/profit that oversees a sport for the people not subject to the same laws as we are?

    June 1, 2011 at 9:12 am | Reply
  8. David b

    Talk about denial truly amazing.All that has gone on and still these
    despots are still in denial and so out of touch just to protect their perfect
    private club where the fans are not invited.How shameful and sad.

    June 1, 2011 at 9:43 am | Reply
  9. Paul Ostling

    Where are the SPONSORS? Aren't they supposed to be the authority figures here, when the members themselves are part of the unholy clique? If a player were involved in some of this there would be suspension by the league and loss of sponsorship deals (where are you Tiger??). What is in the brains of Coke and Visa et al? Seth Blatter and his crowd remind me of so many out of touch effete-pretend-crony-Euros. Does anyone out there really feign surprise that they are on the take? We all knew it; but they have so much arrogance and power (Mubarak? Kaddaffi? the Czar?) that the only people really shocked that their time runs out are their own mob. PLEASE SOMEONE REMOVE THIS FOUL STENCH.

    June 1, 2011 at 9:56 am | Reply
  10. tseegy

    Asian Soccer Committee is sucks. They don't do their job FIFA. Do some cleaning in Asia. Then soccer develop better and fifa will have better countires.

    June 1, 2011 at 10:04 am | Reply
  11. marti

    I will just stop drink Coke, and ingnore other sponsors services or products...Africa has enough 24 live dictators, we non need to support another one...

    June 1, 2011 at 10:24 am | Reply
  12. Mac Karun

    See what money and absolute power can do to a person, they will go to beyond the limits to protect these two things in their life. And what the footballing world is doing, well, nothing actually because like nicotine and alcohol, football has become a drug that cannot be easily expunged from one's lives and with millions of people addicted to the EPL, Bundersliga etc, the present saga will continue with impunity and well, sponsors, they need football and vice versa to make their money, so everything becomes cosy like never before. But when the system is run by a guy with a name that sounded like 'sick bladder', what can one expect except to run to the toilet every so often. What the footballing world needed now is a major operation to extricate the tumour that's ravaging the system and if it's not done, then this problem will continue over and over again.

    June 1, 2011 at 10:30 am | Reply
  13. InOz

    Geez, this article is almost as boring as watching a soccer match. But only ALMOST.

    June 1, 2011 at 11:20 am | Reply
  14. tomy kardos

    uncle Sepp,
    It's time to go home.

    June 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  15. EMMY

    Me, I dont understand why England and their sympathisers are whipping up sentiments.They lost the right to host the World cup; now they've vowed that FIFA will be destroyed.The UK is big, but it has an over-bloated sense of self importance.
    Bidding for the world cup is politics.And you have to live with the fact that honesty(like alleging that they were promised votes which eventually didnt come) is useless in politics.It wont start in football.
    The English FA are on a revenge mission after missing the WC.
    Sorry fellas. See you in 2015 after Blatter's candidacy.

    June 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Reply
  16. Ed

    Emmy I am not sure you understand the situation. The English FA are hypocritical – they were quite willing to go along with this system when they thought they could win, but that does not detract from the current situation where the world's most popular game is run by a self-perpetuating elite who are above (apparently) any law. Here in the UK we currently have legislators being sent to prision for fiddling expenses, a situation that only occurred because no one could see what was going on. Just like Blatter they wanted it 'kept in the family'. Remember Salt Lake City...

    June 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  17. Prakash Moktan

    FIFA these days sounds more like MAFIA – its high time world restructure the organisation and make it more transparent and democratic. It would be better for its President to hold only 2 terms and make ways for new one for fresh idea and progress..... The current body is tainted and corrupted. I don't think with this management the next world cup will be as popular, progressive or anticipated in same manner as it has been in the past years. For the game , Blatter should make way after so much controversies has already come to limelight and the whole world knows FIFA is corrupted. Please Mr. Blatter,its time to go and step down for the greatest game on earth.

    ktm – nepal.

    June 7, 2011 at 12:42 am | Reply
  18. Umer

    Better than Sepp? Yes, he would, if only because I don't think Sepp will even penrted to improve things while I bet Bin Hammam would make some token cosmetic changes that won't actually interfere with the money machine. Will either of them make real changes and improvements or be genuinely good for the organization and the sport? No, of course not.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Reply

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