(JMD quoted on Fox Sports)
If Jordan’s Prince Ali nominates for FIFA presidency, it’s a positive move Australia should support
Simon Hill FOX SPORTS October 28, 2014 3:32PM
FUNNY thing, democracy. Here in the west, we like to champion our commitment to the idea of fair and free elections. A proper contest, where the best man (or woman) wins, according to the will of the electorate.
But in football at least, that commitment will be put to the test over the next twelve months.
Locally, the FFA elections in November 2015 will decide who succeeds Frank Lowy as Chairman of Australia’s governing body. Officially, global executive search firm, Egon Zehnder, has been engaged to “find” the right candidate. Unofficially, the name of Lowy’s son, Stephen, continues to pop up in discussions. Lowy Junior could well be an excellent choice of course, but the process not only needs to be fair, it needs to be seen to be fair.
However, there is a “bigger picture” problem to deal with before then. Next May, the world governing body - FIFA - will choose its next leader, and, as things stand, incumbent Sepp Blatter is as much of a shoo-in for the win as the Workers Party in North Korea.
Blatter, lest we need reminding, is the Dear Leader who has presided over the most divisive period in FIFA’s history. The stench of the World Cup bidding process that led to Russia, and especially Qatar, being awarded the rights to stage the game’s biggest tournament, still lingers.
The Garcia Report - the inquiry into the whole, sorry mess - will never see the light of day in public. The only people who will cast their eyes over it in full, are Hans-Joachim Eckert, the Chairman of the Adjudicatory chamber of the ethics committee, and his deputy - oddly, an Australian, Alan Sullivan.
That the world demands to know the truth is, seemingly, mere detail - even though the report’s author, the American Michael Garcia, says he believes the public has a right to know.
Meantime, Blatter, FIFA’s teflon man, tweets to the world that FIFA is - and I quote - “taking the lead” in acting ethically. Seriously.
Blatter’s comments have rightly been met with derision - his chutzpah even more breathtaking, given recent developments. Blatter, in case you didn’t know, has refused to answer the question of whether he has handed back a $16,000 watch, given as a “gift” by the Brazilian Football Confederation during the 2014 World Cup. Ethics rules dictate only gifts of “trivial” value are conferred upon officials.
Prince Ali with Sepp Blatter. Source: Getty Images
However, Blatter, along with his former personal advisor, Jerome Champagne, are currently the only candidates to confirm they will stand in next years Presidential election. A Blatter victory thus seems assured, for what would be a fifth term. Not bad for a septuagenarian who promised he would call it quits after four.
But is there an alternative?
UEFA’s Michel Platini has already ruled himself out - no bad thing, given some of his best work includes extending the numerically perfect European Championships from 16 teams to an unwieldy 24.
Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the Chilean who was part of FIFA’s inspection team for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, has indicated he may take the plunge. Recently, he suggested 1am starts for finals matches in 2022 to avoid the searing Qatari heat.
But by far the most intriguing name to be put forward of late, is that of Prince Ali - the Jordanian reformer, whose commitment to transparency has ruffled many feathers within FIFA, and AFC circles.
HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein. Source: Getty Images
Prince Ali is yet to comment on the rumours, but he has stated his support - via his personal Twitter account - for the public disclosure of the Garcia Report. Intriguingly, he has also endorsed tweets from others who are suggesting it is time for Blatter to stand down.
James Dorsey is an award winning journalist who runs a fascinating online blog entitled “The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer” - he believes the Prince is the ideal solution to FIFA’s woes.
“He would be the candidate who would do the most in terms of reform, and ensuring transparency and accountability. He would also do much for the development of women’s and grassroots football,” says Dorsey.
On that theme, the Prince does much unheralded work behind the scenes with the Asian Football Development Project, funding coaching education for Syrian refugees in the north of his country, paying for artificial training pitches to be installed in Kyrgyzstan, and - previously - working tirelessly with Australia’s Moya Dodd, on the issue of the wearing of the hijab in the women’s game.
Prince Ali, however, has been outflanked within AFC circles by new President, Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, who will succeed him as FIFA Vice-President when his term runs out next year - thanks to a change in the rules, which the Sheikh himself introduced. Salman has already promised the AFC’s vote to Blatter. Sound familiar?
Perhaps that is why the Prince is - reportedly - considering going for the top job himself?
If there’s any truth at all to the stories, then it’s a promising development. Not everything FIFA does is wrong, or corrupt of course - but clearly, it has a major image problem at the moment, which is harming the game. It needs a broom put through the place, and a new, transparent, reformer put in charge.
Sepp Blatter at the World Cup final. Source: Getty Images
Could Prince Ali win against Blatter, the consummate politician who holds large swathes of Africa and Asia in his sway? James Dorsey again.
“It would be a tough battle, but it’s within the realms of the possible. He would have significant, although not unanimous support from the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Latin America.”
Whether or not Prince Ali could force change, or at least be the catalyst FOR change, surely someone, somewhere has to take a stand against Blatter and the antiquated, authoritarian way FIFA is run? Prince Ali could be that man.
If we in Australia truly believe in democracy, then we should encourage his nomination. For standing idly by, only makes us complicit with the current regime.