(WFI) Three FIFA Ex-Co members today hit back at criticism of the scandal-hit 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process and claimed Sepp Blatter’s imminent anti-corruption reforms can rebuild the governing body’s battered image.
Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and Northern Ireland’s Jim Boyce – both appointed at the FIFA Congress in June – joined Belgium’s FIFA Ex-Co member Michel D’Hooghe on a panel discussion at the Leaders in Football conference at Chelsea FC titled Is FIFA fit to lead the game?
In the weeks after Russia and Qatar were awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups last December, there was vociferous criticism from the failed bids of FIFA’s running parallel bidding contests amid allegations of bribery and vote trading.
Officials from the England 2018 bid were angered that FIFA’s desire to take the World Cup to new territories was not made clear before the bid race began, as they and other nations would not have invested millions of dollars on their campaigns.
“England were disappointed they were not awarded the World Cup – but Australia, USA and Spain didn’t get the bid either,” Boyce told Leaders in Football delegates.
“I don’t believe people should have made promises to the future King [Prince William] or the PM [David Cameron]. If they did then that was wrong.”
He added: “Hopefully, people will see that there are people at FIFA who want transparency, who want openness who want honesty.”
D’Hooghe said: “I never promised anything to nobody, I never voted for Russia.”
Prince Ali defended FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, despite its high risk ratings, ahead of the USA, Australia, South Korea and Japan: “Every single member of FIFA has the right to host the World Cup if they have the means to do so.
“Our region has suffered a lot and it deserves to enjoy this. I have personally offered my services because I want to work on the legacy of the World Cup in West Asia.”
Boyce said the English press had been “very severe on FIFA” in the past year, but emphasised that not everyone at FIFA should be tarnished with the same corruption brush.
“If there are individuals in FIFA who have acted improperly then they have to be dealt with strongly,” he said.
Prince Ali, who heads the Jordan FA and West Asian Football Federation, concurred: “I think corruption is corruption anywhere in the world and it should not be stood for. Now we should learn from this lesson. We have to be responsible for all our actions.”
“But bear in mind FIFA is a wonderful organisation that serves the world’s most popular sport. The attacks on FIFA are also affecting the people who work in the organisation from top to bottom – and a lot of them have been doing of lot of good work to preserve this sport.”
Boyce suggested there was a “danger” he could be the last British FIFA vice president.
The English and Scottish FAs both called for a postponement of Blatter’s election in June when his challenger, Asian football boss Mohamed Bin Hammam, was forced out of the running over bribery charges.
“I would worry that the European countries who have always supported a British vice president may feel differently about that now. But it is a FIFA statute. I hope that I can bring confidence and respectability to the role – I think that bridges
need to be built and I honestly believe that we have got to build relationships,” he said.
“We’ve got to make sure FIFA are open and transparent, and it does not matter if people have constructive criticism.”
Earlier at the conference, English FA chairman David Bernstein explained the stand he made at the FIFA Congress.
“Not everyone was in support of the position I took in Zurich over the FIFA presidency election, some counselled against it. But it was a transparent and honest opinion clearly stated. I now believe we are better regarded because of it,” he said.
“I’d definitely do it again, I felt something had to be said. There were 50 [UEFA members] of them in a room who tried to discourage me from speaking but I will always uphold the right to free speech.”
Inevitably, the three FIFA Ex-Co members stood by Blatter’s pledge to deliver sweeping anti-corruption reforms.
They will be unveiled after an executive committee meeting on Oct. 21.
Boyce said: “The president of FIFA promised openness and transparency, and has promised action against those who have given FIFA a bad name. Let’s at least give them a try to rectify the damaging situation.”
“Let’s try and get FIFA’s name back again. Let’s get rid of the people who give FIFA a bad name, and that is already started. But it will take time – that will not happen in just a few weeks.”
D’Hooghe said he was “sure the president will present strong measures which will be supported by the executive committee”.
Prince Ali added: “Promises have been made and we have four years – so come back in four years and hold us accountable.
“I do believe confederations need to work much closer together and hopefully FIFA can have a role in bringing them together, because they can be very territorial.”
By INSIDER’s Christian Radnedge and Mark Bisson
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