It’s a great limit in the football writing world to speak only a couple of languages, in my case, English and French. One gets the impression following the coronation of King Blatter the Munificent that the tempest of recrimination and accusation over corruption allegations was limited to a handful of British journalists. The Guardian’s David Hytner for example notes this morning that news of Blatter’s election received “modest disapproval” in mainland Europe. Clearly continental Europe doesn’t really much care about the man in Zurich, whose disgusting arrogance more resembles that of a dictator than a dumpy bureaucrat. Blighty stands alone.
The problem with leaving outrage over abuse of power to the British journalists, beyond the appearance of sour grapes over the lost 2018 bid, is, well, British journalism. Not the method, without which most of what we know about FIFA’s impropriety and the FA’s compliance in exchange for votes would never have seen the light of day. Rather, it’s the delivery.
‘Hopeless’ might be a good way to describe it. Marina Hyde for instance concluded an otherwise expert (if at times showy and overly-clever) analysis on the “FIFA family” with this charming declaration: ”So on the form book, I’m afraid, you wouldn’t bet against Blatter outlasting any number of other vulnerable-looking autocrats, and the Football Spring proving nothing but a false dawn.” Okay, let’s not bother at act at all, we’re screwed then. The Telegraph’s Paul Kelso also ended a similarly cogent analysis on the latest FIFA with resignation: ”Ultimately no one with a say in the organisation’s future, the national associations, the confederations or their delegates to the executive committee has any incentive to look beyond narrow self-interest.” Well, that’s that.
Many other journalists emptied the adjective bin when describing FIFA’s ‘farcical’ president-for-life Blatter, all with an air of posh cynical despair. “It’s all just a silly circus!”, we’re told over and over. Sepp the Sad Clown will undo himself in his own good time, whether via the Swiss taxman or the potential for further damning corruption evidence, and the rest of us would do well to wait.
This approach evolved partly as a means for journalists to maintain an aura of objectivity—it is, after all, not their place to overtly call for change at FIFA, only note the stench of ”alleged” (lawyers lawyers lawyers) corruption—and partly because British journalists have seen these allegations come and go before with little effect. But hipper-than-thou snarky detachment is not the same thing as journalistic non-bias, and there other intriguing angles on this story left uncovered. There has been, for example, to date little British mainstream press coverage on any grassroots FIFA reform group. No questions lobbed to any supporters trusts on their opinion on what should be done in response to Blatter’s coronation and FIFA’s intransigence. Scant analysis on whether fan pressure on FIFA’s commercial sponsors could have an effect.
The assumption, particularly from the “woe-is-me” British left, is that it’s all hopeless, that greed always wins, and so let’s all go pick up the latest copy of NME and forget the whole thing. Contrast this to the rabid fan blogosphere, which doesn’t seem content to wait any longer for FIFA gets their house in order. What that restlessness entails is still unclear, to be sure. But it’s still worthy of attention from a press that has done incredible work exposing the sick, unaccountable greed in Zurich, but nowt on the small, green shoots of change starting to bud at home and around the world.