FIFA’s day of reckoning

ZURICH. — The spotlight at next week’s FIFA Congress will fall on the presidential election — but the real key to the future of soccer’s beleaguered governing body is embedded in a document with the unglamorous title “Draft statutes — Congress 2016”.

Drawn up over the last eight months, it suggests changes to stop the scandals that have left the organisation supposed to lead the world’s most popular sport facing its greatest threat for decades.

The most obvious challenge is criminal investigations in the United States and Switzerland that have already resulted in the indictment of several dozen soccer officials for corruption, many of them serving or former presidents of national or continental associations.

US prosecutors have continued to call FIFA a victim of corrupt individuals. But if FIFA as an organisation were criminally charged, sponsors and other partners might be reluctant to do business with it.

But that is not the only concern. In the last month, talk has resurfaced among Europe’s most powerful clubs of a breakaway European Super League, as well as complaints about the amount of time players spend with national teams.

National team competitions depend on a calendar agreed between FIFA and the clubs, which commit to release players to their national teams on certain dates.

If the clubs, which are always eager for more opportunities to play lucrative friendlies abroad, were to pull out, it would throw international football into chaos. There was similar discontent in the 1990s, when European soccer’s governing body UEFA became deeply critical of Joao Havelange, the Brazilian president of FIFA at the time.

UEFA produced proposals that included handing more power to the continental confederations, rotating FIFA’s presidency and limiting it mainly to organising the four-yearly World Cup.

Leading clubs including AC Milan and Manchester United then sought to build support for a breakaway league, and top players found themselves in a tug-of-war as clubs refused to release them for internationals.— Reuters.

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