England should withdraw from the next football World Cup in protest at FIFA’s handling of corruption scandals. At least, that is the opinion of 93% of peopleexternal link who responded to a poll conducted by the British Daily Telegraph newspaper this week.
The British media have predictably been sharpening their knives once again on the news that Zurich-based FIFA, world football's governing body, has lodged a criminal complaint with the Swiss public prosecutor about suspicious financial transactions surrounding the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.
This follows an earlier FIFA decision to uphold the Russia and Qatar bids despite protests from United States lawyer Michael Garcia who had been engaged by FIFA to look into the contentious process.
Despite exonerating itself for giving Russia and Qatar the mandate to host the next two World Cups, FIFA is now pointing the Swiss authorities to various payments made by unnamed individuals.
'Third world dictator'
BBC sports editor Dan Roanexternal link hinted that FIFA president Sepp Blatter might be trying to deflect calls to publish Garcia’s findings in full. “By submitting a criminal complaint with the Swiss attorney-general, he can at least claim to be taking action,” Roan wrote on the BBC Sport website.
And Roan goes further by taking a swipe at the Swiss judiciary that will now investigate allegations made by the Zurich-based sporting body.
"It is possible that criminal charges may now be brought against football officials, but many will question whether the notoriously opaque Swiss legal system is likely to produce meaningful results any time soon."
Roan may be referring to a 2010 canton Zug court case that found that former FIFA officials, including ex-President Joao Havelange, had received millions in kickbacks from a sports marketing firm that later went bust.
But the public had to wait two years before details of the ruling were made open. The delay was caused by a court gagging order that was eventually ended only after much public pressure.
The United States press has also rounded on FIFA in recent days, with the New York Times condemning its “farcically shady behavior”external link.
Blatter has also come under personal fire by the Wall Street Journal, which accuses him of running FIFA “like a third world dictator”external link.
The Swiss press has also voiced its displeasure at FIFA’s ongoing scandals in the past. But there are signs that the media in FIFA’s home country are starting to resent the non-stop chorus of criticism emanating from other countries, particularly Britain.
Blick am Abend sports editor Felix Bingesser shot a testy replyexternal link back to the world’s media this week. Bingesser admits that transparency is still poor at FIFA but commended the body for its stated intention to reform. He also believed that awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar “was, and remains, a good idea”.
“And Sepp Blatter? He is always the scapegoat. It is easy, but also cheap and boring, to attach blame to individuals,” Bingesser wrote.
Take ball elsewhere
But the criticism of Blatter and FIFA does not look set to disappear. Reinhard Rauball, president of Germany’s Football League, told the German magazine Kicker that European clubs (which run under the UEFA umbrella) should consider a World Cup boycottexternal link if FIFA refuses to publish the full Garcia report.
"One option, which would have to be seriously considered, is certainly whether UEFA [European football's governing body] should leave FIFA,” Rauball warned.
His comments were backed up by former English Football Association (FA) chairman David Bernstein in a recent interview with the BBCexternal link.
"If I was at the FA now, I would do everything I could to encourage other nations within UEFA - and there are some who would definitely be on side, others maybe not - to take this line [a possible World Cup boycott]," he said.
"At some stage, you have to walk the walk, stop talking and do something."