FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks at the opening of the FIFA Congress. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)

One Day Congress in Nassau

The 17-point agenda for the Wednesday congress has one overarching theme—protection of the sport. Two items aim at this goal. One will address how the national associations can remain free from governmental interference so they can operate with the best intentions for the sport.

Second, FIFA is expected to implement the 6+5 Rule which provides that a club team must start a match with at least six players who would be eligible for the national team of the country in which the club is based. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has said in the past that signing foreign players has caused clubs to lose their identity.

Protection of young football athletes will be another agenda item for the one-day Congress.

A 108-page financial report is expected to be approved on Wednesday. The report says that the federation has a surplus of nearly $200 million from 2008, with revenue of $957 million. FIFA’s assets total $1.613 billion.

Despite the rosy picture for FIFA finances, President Sepp Blatter noted the toll of the economic downturn in his speech at the opening ceremony of the congress Tuesday night.

“Football can play an active role in overcoming this crisis by bringing people together,” he said, alluding to the ancient Roman custom of “bread and entertainment” to help people overcome difficult times, football providing that entertainment.

“What we need is hope and emotions,” he said. “We can bring to the people these emotions.”

Olympic Football on the Line

The future of football at the Olympics could be decided by the congress as it considers whether to limit the Olympic tournament to under-21 players, a change from the current under-23 rule. South American football associations are among the advocates for a change.

But IOC President Jacques Rogge has warned FIFA that such a change would mean the end of football at the Olympics. Already the IOC sees the under-23 rule as a barrier that allows the best players of the game to compete at the Olympics. Lowering the age to under-21 would further limit quality players for the Olympics.

“I think football will stay in 2012,” London Olympics chair Sebastian Coe tells Around the Rings. Coe is attending the FIFA meeting primarily in his capacity as a member of the team bidding for the 2018 World Cup for England.
“I think FIFA will recognize the impact this will have on the sport at the Games,” he says.

The change in the rule is listed as a discussion item for the congress, indicating that a decision to change may not come in Nassau.
IOC Members at FIFA

At least five IOC members are at the FIFA Congress, starting with the most senior of all IOC members, Joao Havelange of Brazil, the former president of the international federation. The 93-year old IOC doyen is one of only three members left who can serve on the IOC for life, all of them joining the IOC prior to 1976.

While not active with the administration of FIFA any longer, Havelange attracts admirers wherever he goes at the FIFA meeting, with people stopping to get their photos taken with the courtly man who seems to defy the aging process.

Current FIFA president Sepp Blatter is an IOC member as is vice president Issa Hayatou, who also heads the FIFA committee on the Olympic tournament. IOC member Timothy Fok of Hong Kong is the only other IOC member in Nassau with a FIFA

IOC member Denis Oswald and FIFA honorary president Joao Havelange. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)

connection: he is president of the Hong Kong Football Association.

Denis Oswald is the only other IOC member spotted in Nassau. He is representing the IOC President at the FIFA meeting. Oswald is president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations so his presence is a natural.

“FIFA is after all, one of the more important members of ASOIF,” he tells Around the Rings.

2016 Olympic Bids Have Presence in Nassau

Madrid, Chicago and Rio De Janeiro sent key members of their teams to plant the flag at the FIFA Congress.

For Chicago, Mike Roberts, vice chairman of the board for Chicago 2016 and 1964 Olympic swimming phenom Donna Devarona are both on hand. She knows FIFA well from her days as chair of the organizing committee for the 1999 Women’s World Cup in the U.S. Roberts is a former COO of McDonald’s who stepped up his role as vice chair of the bid last year. He’s become involved on a daily basis with communications and marketing matters, especially in the international realm. He was spotted meeting with Hong Kong IOC member Timothy Fok.

International relations staffers

Bahamian-style entertainment at the opening ceremony of the FIFA Congress. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)

Tania Paessler and Mireille Lizandra are the representatives of the Madrid bid. Lizandra was part of the 2012 campaign from Madrid, while Paessler worked for the New York City 2012 campaign.

While the more active members of the Rio bid team are not here, the Brazilian bid has a powerful presence, Joao Havelange. The honorary FIFA President and IOC member may not be an outspoken lobbyist for the bid, but without speaking a word his presence is a reminder that his home town is seeking the Games.

Oceania Confederation Budget Swing

The Oceania Football Confederation budget has swung from a $1 million deficit to $1 million in the past year, secretary general Tai Nicholas tells Around the Rings.

The OFC released to figures to its members during a Congress held Monday on the side of the FIFA meetings in Nassau.

Nicholas said the main reason to call the meeting for Nassau was cost. Normally he said, OFC congresses “cost one hundred thousand dollars” to stage but, with all the delegates in Nassau for the FIFA Congress, cost wouldn’t be a worry.

While by and large, the continental organizations have remained mum on the countries bidding for 2018 and 2022 World Cups, Nicholas said the OFC already pledged its support to former OFC member Australia, now in the Asian confederation.

“We have to be careful [with the OFC’s support]” he said. He said there is support for the bid because of the regional benefit.

Nicholas cited the “economic benefit” as one reason for the support, and that the Australian government pledged millions of dollars of aid for the region. But, Nicholson said, the OFC must take great pains to divorce support of an Australian bid from Australian aid.

Blazer Influence Leads FIFA to Bahamas

CONCACAF secretary general and New York City resident Chuck Blazer boasted to Around the Rings earlier this week that the FIFA Congress was in Nassau because he has a second home here. But Blazer’s story is no tall tale. In his remarks Tuesday night at the opening ceremony for the congress, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham offered thanks to Blazer for his instrumental role landing the event for The Bahamas.
Reported and written in Nassau by Ed Hula and Ed Hula III.

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