When FIFA President Sepp Blatter coasted to reelection today despite the ethics scandals plaguing soccer's international governing body, people expected him to talk reform. And while Blatter mostly spoke in platitudes (promising, for example, to "put FIFA's ship back on the right course in clear, transparent waters"), he did announce one major policy shift: FIFA's 208 member associations--not just a 24-person executive committee--will vote on future World Cup hosts starting in 2026 in order to "give more power" to FIFA's national associations. How are people interpreting the news?
- Committee Was Seat of Scandal: Business Insider writes that FIFA's executive committee has been accused of corruption. A Sunday Times investigation in 2010, for example, revealed that two members of the executive committee were willing to sell their votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts.
- A Reelection Tactic: The AP's John Leicester notes that Blatter proposed his policy change before the votes were cast today. By expanding the World Cup vote to all members, Leicester writes, Blatter was pandering to each country's self-importance. "More money, more power: Again, it doesn't take a scientist to fathom out why Blatter was crowned again with 186 of 203 ballots cast and minimal complaint, at least from within the congress, that there was no alternative candidate."
- Empty Promises: Yes, Yahoo's Brooks Peck concedes, "it would be a little harder to bribe the majority of the 208-member congress during a World Cup bid vote than just the 24 members of the Executive Committee." But "it's easy to make promises about events that are six or seven years away. Plenty of time for people to forget." Peck also calls Blatter out for not investigating how Qatar won the 2022 World Cup and pokes fun at his idea for a one-day special congress to discuss the laundry list of corruption allegations facing FIFA. The "insular and secretive nature of FIFA," Peck concludes, remains intact.
- A Concession With a Catch: Grahame L. Jones at The Los Angeles Times adds that under Blatter's new scheme, the executive committee will still choose the shortlist of World Cup candidates.
- Will FIFA Follow the IOC's Lead? Karolos Grohmann at Reuters points out that in 1998, the International Olympic Committee battled through its own bribes-for-votes scandal involving the 2002 Salt Lake City winter Olympics. The IOC expelled some members and sanctioned others, banned all members from traveling to candidate cities, restricted bid cities' access to voting members, and imposed age limits and term restrictions on new IOC members and the president. "So far, FIFA shows few signs it is prepared to undertake such serious reforms," Grohmann writes.
Blatter, a 75-year-old Swiss who has run FIFA since 1998, ran unopposed today after Qatar's Mohamed bin Hammam withdrew from the contest amidst allegations that he was bribing Caribbean voters.