FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced his resignation and the world of soccer heaved sigh of relief. It would, however, be naïve to believe that his departure will solve FIFA's problems, says DW's Martin Muno.
Brilliant chess players are the ones who baffle both opponents and spectators when they manage to maneuver themselves out of a hopeless situation. Joseph Blatter pulled off one of those moves on Tuesday night with his decision to step down as FIFA president at an extraordinary congress of the organization.
"Blatter splits" predicted the cover of Germany's "Bild Zeitung," but - as often - it proved to be wrong: Blatter is not splitting. In the same breath, he promised far-reaching reforms and announced, "I will fulfill my duties as FIFA president until the new election."
I will succeed
The fact remains that Blatter is still in office. At the earliest, his successor will be elected at the end of this year, and the delay to electing a new FIFA head could even last until March 2016. In his resignation announcement, he made it clear that he wanted to use the remaining time to push through changes that have been blocked by his opponents, adding, "This time I will succeed." Such a statement can almost be interpreted as a threat to his adversaries. Blatter will use the rest of his time in office to choose a suitable successor.
One thing is for sure: Blatter faces severe problems. After the spectacular arrests on the fringes of last week's FIFA congress, and his subsequent landslide victory as the world soccer governing body's president, he and his organization have lost the last of their credibility. The FBI is opening a corruption inquiry into his actions; Swiss justice officials are questioning the selection of future soccer World Cup host countries Russia and Qatar. A great deal of pressure is mounting on the 79-year-old and perhaps he has realized that it would be better to step down on his own before he is led out of FIFA headquarters in handcuffs.
Covered in mud
It is also clear that Blatter will not change policies in his final months in office. Even FIFA's new strong man, Domenico Scala, is too deeply implicated in the corruption scandal to actually turn things around. After all, as chairman of the FIFA Audit and Compliance committee, he has been monitoring assets and budgets and making sure the international soccer organization is being properly run. He too shares Blatter's opinion that recent corruption charges should be regarded as isolated cases. Cosmetic changes, such as a planned term limit for FIFA presidents, are welcome but by no means sufficient to address the changes needed at the organization.
What international football needs is nothing less than a fresh start - and that would involve staff changes in FIFA's executive committee and administration. And, of course, the selection of Russia and Qatar as World Cup hosts must be investigated. All internal documents have to be put on the table.
Reforms need to reach down to the regional soccer associations as well - with Europe's UEFA leading the pack. UEFA President Michel Platini, known for his proverbial bark being louder than his bite, is another example of someone benefitting from the scandalous decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup. Only weeks after Platini had cast his vote for Qatar, his son was hired at a branch of the Qatar Investment Authority.
Cheat and bribes
FIFA's voting system itself must also be changed. A major problem is the fact that every member nation has the same amount of clout, meaning that votes cast by soccer giants like Brazil, Argentina, Italy and Germany have the same influence as votes from, let's say, Aruba or the Cayman Islands. The idea of "one country, one vote" appears democratic, but actually it lends itself to all sorts of illegal, under-the-table dealings.
The changes FIFA needs are more then mere reforms - what it needs is more like a revolution.
Blatter, the man, will leave but abolishing the Blatter system will be a much more daunting task. It would be naïve to think that FIFA will purge itself. Soccer fans all over the world can only hope that the work of judicial systems will prevail.
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