This is our truth, tell us yours
It’s possible to feel sorry for Sepp Blatter.
I know, that doesn’t seem possible. FIFA is being pilloried for corruption and its unaccountable style. It looks like a deserved challenge. So is there an alternative narrative in which Blatter is indeed a victim rather than a perpetrator?
The notion that this is a neutral dispute which centres on how FIFA should be run ignores the history of sports in the last fifty years. The history of sport increasingly features the overthrowing of administrators and their bureaucracies by competing elites who claim that they should control the sport because they generate the wealth.
The classic example is Formula One motor racing, where FOCA, the organization that, in the 70s, represented most of the teams, seized control of the sport from the FIA. In the process Bernie Ecclestone became unbelievably wealthy, incurring a few accusations of tax avoidance and the paying of bribes along the way.
That’s one example. From the world of soccer you have the power struggle in England between the Premier League and the Football League. The nonsense over the Heineken Cup in rugby union has many of the same features.
And the world of boxing of course, is riddled with power struggles within, and between governing bodies.
So UEFA, now, is threatening an alternative World Cup as retaliation against FIFA’s re-election of Blatter. Anyone want to guess who’ll control and distribute the money from the TV rights for that tournament?
Now, I’m not an advocate for Sepp Blatter. I don’t now quite what has happened in terms of the corruption allegations. I do know, though, that there is an alternative narrative here that Blatter and his friends will exploit, that they are not corrupt, but victims of a coup designed to reduce the distribution of money to smaller nations, the nations Blatter went out of his way to cultivate. This one, I fear, will run and run.