NEWS just in: magpies set up court to investigate disappearance of shiny objects.
Forgive me for not getting too excited about FIFA’s willingness to look into claims of corruption made by former FA chairman Lord Triesman, but isn’t someone missing the point?
FIFA may be investigating – but who is investigating FIFA?
Lord Triesman’s allegation that FIFA members were looking for bribes or at least sweeteners to vote for England in the World Cup 2018 bidding process will come as no surprise to anyone in sport and certainly nobody remotely close to football.
But while the behaviour of those FIFA fat cats is despicable the bigger concern is whether the system itself – and FIFA itself – is intrinsically and institutionally corrupt; because if it is then we have a real problem.
It’s easy to forget that there are a lot committed, passionate football people who work for the organisation and who work at all times for the good of the game, so not everything about FIFA is bad.
There have been huge achievements in recent years, strengthening football’s position as the world’s number one sport and helping it flourish in countries where there is neither the finance or the organisation to do it alone.
It’s also fair to say the overall standard of international football has risen dramatically to an extent where there is no longer such a huge gap between the top 10 and the rest.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, for all his faults, made a good decision to support the idea of a World Cup in South Africa and open up the sport to a continent that loves the game; and there are unseen development programmes across the globe that do good work, too.
But all those positives come with a very big ‘but’; because the very way that FIFA is set up, is run, is organised creates an environment where corruption can flourish.
Who in their right minds would allow the staging of a World Cup, worth millions and millions of Euros, to be in the gift of a handful of committee members who are courted over a year-long period before voting in secret?
Lord Triesman’s allegations are that one committee member wanted a knighthood in return for his vote, another asked for television rights to a friendly match and a third needed £2.5m to build an education centre.
Then there is a Sunday Times claim that two more Fifa executive committee members - vice-president Issa Hayatou, from Cameroon, and Jacques Anouma, from the Ivory Coast - were paid nearly £1m to vote for Qatar's successful 2022 World Cup bid.
All shocking and disgraceful stuff; but is anyone really surprised?
The whole premise of bidding for a World Cup encourages such corruption and the very basis of the process demands the offering of incentives, including those deemed acceptable.
The FA, after all, were willing to offer Thailand a friendly fixture in a bid to encourage their vote – an offer which was hastily withdrawn when England failed to land the tournament.
This tactic is not seen as illegal and is within the rules; but if the rules allow a bit of grey then who can be shocked when others go for something darker?
England’s 2018 bid also included an offer to put some of the profit made from the World Cup into a special account to fund football initiatives all over the world. This was seen as ‘giving something back’ and providing a legacy not just for the host nation but for all of football.
All very honourable and no doubt the initiatives funded would have been worthwhile. But why should the bidding nations feel they have to ‘offer’ something extra at all? Why is there a culture completely embedded within the system that World Cups have to be bought and that temptations, incentives and sweeteners are virtually compulsory?
The answer, unfortunately, lies in the very way FIFA operates and in the way its committees and processes are set up ; so however genuine Blatter’s determination is to root out corruption, it could prove almost impossible without outside help.
An independent investigation not only into corruption but into how FIFA is run would be appropriate
Don't hold your breath, though. The magpies may be surrounded by shiny mirrors but they don't enjoy looking at their reflection too closely.