High-ranking European soccer official Michel Platini just made FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s re-election campaign a whole lot easier. By announcing he would not run against his former mentor, Blatter is now almost guaranteed to win a fifth term as head of FIFA. Platini said he would instead seek re-election as UEFA’s president, the Guardian reports. UEFA is European soccer’s governing body.
The news comes as a disappointment to many in Europe who oppose Blatter, whose tenure has been embroiled by multiple scandals. Of the six continental bodies that compose FIFA, the European delegation is the only one that had not thrown its support behind Blatter, who previously had said he would not seek another term, the Guardian reports. Blatter is currently serving his fourth four-year term and running, now virtually unopposed, for his fifth.
Platini, however, hopes Europe’s stand against Blatter does not end with his decision not to run. A member of FIFA’s executive committee, Platini challenged his committee colleagues to stand up to the status quo.
“[FIFA's Executive Committee] must not always let Mr. Blatter be omnipresent and omnipotent,” Blatter said (via Bloomberg). “The executive committee needs to find its courage to be a counterbalance to Mr. Blatter.”
But the executive committee isn’t so keen to rock the proverbial boat, which Blatter has filled with literal money over the years. Under the 78-year-old’s watch, FIFA’s revenue increased to almost $5 billion per four-year World Cup cycle, Bloomberg reports. So it’s no wonder that many committee members were downright gleeful about Platini’s decision.
“It was a very positive message. [Platini] said he would like to continue as UEFA president and I am pleased that it means that this time there will be no battle between FIFA and UEFA,” committee member Michel D’Hooghe said (via the Guardian).
To critics, however, the news that Platini does not want to challenge Blatter in the election comes as bad news. They say the numerous scandals that have come with those increased revenues — and particularly allegations that FIFA officials accepted bribes in return for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar — will continue to taint the organization.
It’s a fact that FIFA has a bad reputation around the world, as evidenced by the boos Blatter received when introduced at the World Cup in Brazil this summer. And the decisions to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar haven’t just been criticized, but also investigated — and even the investigation has been controversial!
There’s also the ongoing “turf war” between FIFA and women’s World Cup players who argue the association’s use of artificial turf for next year’s female competition violates their basic rights. And now even American soccer moms and dads are expressing their frustrations with FIFA. They filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in California pleading the body to do more in regards to prevention head injuries.
Suffice it to say, public opinion of the world’s governing soccer body has rarely been lower. But with Blatter now thought to be a shoo-in for his fifth term, is there any hope for change?
Platini still says yes.
“I’m not closing the door to FIFA down the road, we will see,” Platini said (via Bloomberg).