Four months out from FIFA Congress, at which its president Sepp Blatter will attempt to push through the remnants of its proposed governance reforms, UEFA has set its stall out. In doing so European football’s governing body appears to have fulfilled criticism that its leaders are prioritising their own ambitions over the good of world football.
At a meeting in Nyon today, UEFA’s 53 members unanimously adopted a declaration regarding proposed amendments to the FIFA Statutes. The declaration will cause immediate disappointment to those hoping for far reaching reform of football governance.
Most eye-catching among its proposals were for an eight year initial term for the FIFA presidency, with a second four year term an option - 12 years would be the overall limit, in common with the IOC presidency. This goes against the proposed two 4 year term period proposed by FIFA’s Independent Governance Committee (IGC). Sepp Blatter will have served 17 years by the time his current term expires.
UEFA also proposed to end article 77 of the FIFA statutes which provides FIFA a levy on every international match played. Such a proposal would end a century long funding mechanism for football’s world governing body and surely have a detrimental effect on its disbursement of global development money.
UEFA also declined to support the IGC’s limit on FIFA’s 25-member executive committee to three 4-year terms. UEFA, which currently has delegates with 25, 17 and 15 years’ service at FIFA, proposes no limit.
Integrity checks for Exco members, say UEFA, should follow guidelines proposed by FIFA but be carried out by confederations. According to UEFA an age limit of 72 at the time of election would also be appropriate.
The IGC’s chairman, the Swiss law professor Mark Pieth has been critical of the confederations’ approach to FIFA reform and last week openly criticised UEFA’s approach in a German newspaper. He singled out Platini and Angel Villar Llona for criticism in a wide ranging interview.
“There is resistance from people who are afraid of losing something, and people who hope to achieve something in the future,” said Pieth.
Platini, he suggested, was openly opposed to some of the reforms, while Villar Llona, who is allied to FIFA’s 3 South American Exco members, led backroom revolts.
Many on the FIFA Exco, he said, that “want to change things think only of themselves and their own careers.”
Looking through today’s declaration it would be difficult to disagree with Pieth’s observations. Perhaps what is most striking is the amendment which proposes:
Candidates for the FIFA Presidency should be supported by their own national association and/or confederation and have an ‘active office’ within that national association and/or confederation.
This is seemingly a minor amendment, but if carried would have consequences on the next FIFA presidential race. As well as Villar Llona, three of the most likely candidates come from France – Platini, Jerome Valcke and Jerome Champagne – which would, depending on the wording, place the French Football Federation as kingmaker, or exclude Valcke or Champagne’s candidacy altogether.
For me, that suggests that UEFA are in a flummox, for neither of the latter two candidates would neccesserily represent Europe’s interests in world football. Certainly Blatter – a Swiss - hasn’t.
Football politics’ ultimate prize has been outside UEFA’s reach since 1974. It might still be for some time to come.