Daniel W. Drezner

Sepp Blatter does his best Mubarak impression yet

Step back for a moment and imagine what a "good" international organization should look like.  Presumably, it should be relatively transparent and representative.  It should earn a reputation for competency, efficiency, and an aversion to corruption.  Stakeholders in the organization should feel that they are being consulted and their needs acknowledged if not always perfectly ...

Step back for a moment and imagine what a "good" international organization should look like.  Presumably, it should be relatively transparent and representative.  It should earn a reputation for competency, efficiency, and an aversion to corruption.  Stakeholders in the organization should feel that they are being consulted and their needs acknowledged if not always perfectly addressed.  When confronted with a challenge or scandal, the organization should respond with alacrity and a respect for due process. 

I bring this up because, right now, FIFA is the exact opposite of this ideal type. 

The Financial Times’ Roger Blitz and Stanley Pignal report on the mockery of global governance that is currently known as FIFA

Fifa has become “unstable,” Sepp Blatter admitted as the president addressed the governing body’s annual Congress in the teeth of pressure for reform from several fronts and demands that the election to secure his fourth term of office be postponed.

The biggest pressure was brought to bear from the World Cup sponsors. Four of the biggest sponsors – Coca-Cola, Adidas, Visa and Emirates Airlines – have now gone public, calling on Fifa to act swiftly to restore its damaged reputation in the face of the bribery allegations that have sparked an internecine struggle between the governing body’s most powerful figures. 

The European Commission, which has a say in how Fifa’s European TV rights are awarded, also made clear its displeasure in a thinly veiled attack on Mr Blatter.

Androulla Vassiliou, the commissioner responsible for sport, said: “The situation at Fifa is a concern for many of us and I have confidence that the current issues will be thoroughly investigated and resolved as soon as possible.

“Football and sport in general need good leadership and governance, above suspicion and firmly rooted in accountability and transparency.”

Mr Blatter, in a sombre address to the 208-member Congress, said: “”I thought that we were living in a world of fair play, respect and discipline … I must unfortunately say this is not the case."

Dude, when the European Union is lecturing you on how to govern, you know you’re in trouble. 

So, corporate and state sponsors ticked off – check.  Well, surely, FIFA will respond by sacking those responsible and getting off to a fresh start, right?  Hey, what’s this ESPN story saying? 

Sepp Blatter was poised for re-election as FIFA president Wednesday, calling himself the "captain of the ship" and promising to enact "radical" reforms to tackle the corruption scandals that have engulfed soccer’s governing body.

Blatter vowed to give more power to the 208 national federations at the expense of the 24-man executive committee by allowing them to pick the host of the World Cup from now on….

Blatter said the worst scandal in the body’s history could be solved within FIFA itself and with him in charge.

"Reforms will be made and not just touchups but radical decisions," Blatter said in his speech to the 208 delegations attending the congress….

"We have made mistakes, but we will draw our conclusions," Blatter said.

Blatter was heeding the advice of IOC president Jacques Rogge, who told him on the eve of the election that only drastic measures to improve democracy and transparency had saved the Olympic movement when it faced a similar corruption scandal in the run-up to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

Blatter said he would work to make sure the World Cup would in the future be picked in a vote by all federations instead of the two dozen executive committee members, several of whom have been involved in bribery scandals.

A few thoughts.  First, what kind of election process is it when the scandal-beseiged incumbent is the only friggin’ candidate?  Bear in mind this is the same Sepp Blatter who declared that FIFA was much more transparent than the IOC — which is kinda like Frederick’s of Hollywood claiming that they’re classier than Victoria’s Secret

Second, widening the vote to all members won’t necessarily stop corruption — if the International Whaling Commission is any guide, it will simply expand the number of actors who could be bribed. 

Third, any anti-corruption campaign depends on Blatter.  As Leander Schaerlaeckens blogs over at ESPN, however, Blatter serms to be doing his best Arab strongman impersonation right now:

Through [the crisis], Blatter has maintained that FIFA isn’t in crisis, thus denying that he’s pushed the organization over the brink of respectability. Amid the firestorm, the tiny septuagenarian Swiss leader has made it clear that FIFA shouldn’t play by ordinary rules or be held accountable to anything or anyone.

This was never more obvious than when Blatter got fed up with questions from a hungry pack of journalists in a press conference Monday. "I will not answer this question," he said in response to a question about [CONCACAF president Jack] Warner. "I am the president of FIFA, you cannot question me." When the assembly was rightly outraged, he admonished it for a lack of respect for him and FIFA. And after taking a few more hard questions, he stormed off the stage, citing a lack of respect once more.

If only Blatter had been caught groping a chambermaid — then there would be some real reform! 

So, to sum up:  scandal–ridden organization, pissed-off stakeholders, and an out-of-touch megalomaniacal leader who’s about to be re-elected. 

Ladies and gentleman, I give you FIFA in 2011 — the only international organization that can make the Iinternational Olympic Committee and European Union look good. 

Am I missing anything? 

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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