Dure: Sepp Blatter matters less than moving the 2022 World Cup
Forgive me for interrupting the dancing on the streets anywhere Sepp Blatter’s money hasn’t touched. Nobody wants to be the guy watching the Berlin Wall falling and saying, “Yeah, but we still have to deal with a lot of other stuff.”
But the Jedi mind trick that made Blatter decide this wasn’t the FIFA office he was looking for has not brought us any closer to the ultimate goal: Moving the 2022 World Cup.
Perhaps Blatter’s exit will bring FIFA one step closer to credibility. Under his reign, we simply couldn’t take anything seriously any more. And any attempt to dig for the truth was met with stern admonishment to mind one’s place. Blatter lived like a king but ruled like a dictator.
For better or for worse, though, Blatter was the kind of dictator who made the trains run on time. FIFA makes so much money — $141 million surplus off more than $2 billion revenue in 2014 alone, sitting on more than $1.5 billion — that you’d hardly even notice what’s going on the expense accounts. Unlike the Olympics, World Cups continue to attract several serious bidders.
And in that environment, changing the culture will be difficult. Changing decisions may be even tougher.
That leads us to Qatar.
We may not like Russia as a World Cup host in 2018, but three years isn’t much time to move the tournament. The closest precedent would be the 2003 Women’s World Cup moving from China to the USA due to the SARS epidemic, but China wasn’t being punished — FIFA simply gave it the 2007 WWC instead. And at least that country can make a legitimate argument that its sports culture and infrastructure merit a Cup.
Qatar has no such argument. It has no World Cup history. FIFA’s own bid evaluators questioned the logistics of having several stadiums in close proximity, the reliance on one major airport, and the “potential health risk” of playing in a climate in which 100 degrees is considered mild for summer. The “hi-tech carbon-neutral cooling systems” described in the report never materialized, and the Cup was moved to late fall.
Even if Qatar won the World Cup rights with no inducements beyond complimentary sunscreen and drinking water, FIFA has every right — indeed, the obligation — to act.
So what leader would compel FIFA to act? It won’t be Michel Platini, who has several business ties with Qatar and insists he would’ve supported the country’s bid in any case. Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, the Jordanian who challenged Blatter in the election that now seems ages ago, seemed comfortable with Qatar in 2014, though he has expressed concern about workers.
The pressure will have to come, once again, from outside FIFA. If pressure from sponsors forced Sepp Blatter to take a long walk away from office, that pressure has to continue.
Threaten to pull support. Make John Oliver drink even more Bud Light Lime.
The 2022 World Cup is the greatest symptom and the worst effect of FIFA’s lack of a moral compass. In all the other scandals, reputations and money are at stake. In Qatar, lives are at stake.