Sepp Blatter's re-election as FIFA president is a missed opportunity for the organization to make some real change.
For Throwback Thursday here at SI's Planet Fútbol, we thought it would be fun (and timely) to dust off the campaign video we made back in 2011 when I announced my candidacy for FIFA president to challenge Sepp Blatter. Why? Because we learned on Thursday that the 78-year-old Blatter, after 16 years in charge of FIFA, will almost certainly cruise to another four-year term in next year’s election. The only challenger who could have potentially given Blatter a run for his money, UEFA president Michel Platini, announced he would not be running against Blatter and would run instead for the same UEFA position instead.
That’s a shame. Organizations like FIFA are best served by having real competitions for top offices, and for an outfit that claims to be a great democracy, FIFA sure has a lot of one-candidate elections. Blatter has been the only choice on the ballot in the last two FIFA presidential elections, in 2007 and '11. (The English FA, to its credit, abstained in the last election as a snub to Blatter, while the U.S. Soccer Federation voted for Blatter again.)
UEFA may yet put forward its own hand-picked FIFA presidential candidate, but if it's not Platini, there's almost no chance Blatter could lose. Another declared candidate, Jérôme Champagne, doesn’t seem much different than Blatter and has zero chance of beating him.
Not that I did either back in 2011. But at least in those days, it was possible for a reformist outsider candidate — I liked the idea of Kofi Annan or Bill Clinton — to be nominated for the FIFA presidency. But after FIFA's rule changes not long ago, there's no chance at all for outsiders. To run for FIFA president these days, you now need to have five national federations nominate you (instead of one, as it used to be), and you also need to have spent at least two of the previous five years involved in soccer with a club, federation, confederation or FIFA.
Although I didn’t get nominated, I learned a lot during my FIFA presidential run, and Blatter even ended up adopting some of the ideas that were in my platform. Let’s break it down:
Use of technology for close calls on the goal-line: Blatter did a U-turn and supported the idea. Goal-line technology has worked well at the 2014 World Cup and in the English Premier League.
Bringing women into FIFA leadership for the first time: Blatter ended up pushing to bring a woman onto the all-male FIFA Executive Committee for the first time, and Burundi's Lydia Nsekera became the first female ExCo member ever in 2012. It needs to go further, though, and sexism at FIFA under Blatter continues to be a problem.
But Blatter hasn’t touched other aspects of my platform.
Term limits: Considering there have been only three FIFA presidents since 1961, I supported limiting FIFA offices to no more than two four-year terms. FIFA voted term limits down earlier this year.
Doing a Wikileaks on FIFA: I wanted to release all FIFA documents to the public and find out how corrupt FIFA really is. Blatter, as you might expect, does not.
Using the world's best referees at the World Cup and requiring them to explain controversial calls to a pool reporter after games: Not supported by Blatter.
Long story short: FIFA still has a long way to go if it's going to be viewed as a clean and progressive organization. And that won't happen in any serious way until the 78-year-old man at the top is no longer there.