It’s unpalatable but Lowy made the right call

It’s unpalatable but Lowy made the right call

by Carlos Alberto Diego

Let me start by saying that FIFA is an institutionally corrupt and morally bankrupt organisation that should be blown up and rebuilt.

Sepp Blatter has overseen FIFA since 1998 and, in every way, aided and encouraged its ‘brown paper bag’ culture. He is the big brother within the crooked brotherhood and by turning a blind eye to the ways of his rotten to the core Executive Committee, has a allowed, in the good name of football, a toxic, shady world to flourish around him.   

Sepp’s resounding 186 vote to nil, one-horse race, win in the FIFA election last week showed us clearly that the overwhelming majority of FIFA’s 208 member associations support Blatter.

In the backdrop of serial scandals, World Cup bid bribes-for-votes allegations and the exposing of FIFA’s underbelly, where long time accomplices turned against each other, it was hard to believe that that Blatter could be returned so comprehensively.

Did FIFA members support him because he has been and will, in the future, be good for world football? Did they support him because a delightful brown paper bag, marked GOAL project, came their way stuffed full of Swiss francs as a reward for just being a good friend? Or did they just fear the consequences if they didn’t vote for the status quo?  

What motivated member associations to vote the way they did; only they can answer. The fact is that he is back and the dysfunctional basis on which FIFA operates remains and more worryingly, has been endorsed in celebrated fashion by the FIFA family.

The only nation I care about is Australia and the progress of its football. We, for the record, were one of the 186 member associations that voted for more of the same. Yep we supported Sepp ‘The Rat’ Blatter and good people in our game called the Lowy/Buckley decision an outrage.

Craig Foster in his Sydney Morning Herald article on Sunday 5th June 2011 - Australia not spared from FIFA's grand shame - slammed Buckley for the move.  Ray Gatt in his article in The Australian on the same weekend - Buckley’s own goal shames the game - did the same. Celebrated Australia football writer Matthew Hall beat them all to the punch and pre-empted events in his World Game blog last week. All weekend I’ve had a feisty but enjoyable exchange of views on twitter with important advocates in the game in this country former FFA Head of Corporate Affairs, Bonita Mersiadies and PFA boss, Brendan Schwab.

All good people saying we should’ve made a stand and followed England and submitted a protest  vote against Blatter’s re-election, even if it involved, as Fozzie put it, ‘a fight for reform even if it is damaging to our position within Asia and FIFA in the immediate term’.

Whoa... what was that? Did he write ‘even if it is damaging to our position within Asia and FIFA in the immediate term’?

Forgive me for being the odd man out here but HELLO does our game need more ‘pain’?

Can our game tolerate more ‘pain’? Will the many thousands of good football people in Australia who have dedicated their lives to growing the game, often for no payment, and spreading the word within their own communities and convincing the mainstream about the virtues of the game, happily embrace more ‘pain’?

How about the players? After sacrificing so much in the changeover from the NSL to A-League, are they ready now to welcome more ‘pain’? What about the FFA, state associations, clubs (at all levels), media organisations and corporates who are working overtime to bring sponsorship and investment into the game? Are they ready frolic in a meadow of continued ‘pain’? 

Here’s a hypothetical. Would our game survive, if we voted against Blatter and he orchestrated his ultimate revenge and saw to it that we were kicked out of the AFC and tossed back into Oceania? Those who think it would never happen just remember this was the bloke who gave Oceania direct entry to the World Cup in 2003 and did nothing when the FIFA Executive Committee took it away 12 months later. And do I need to remind you about Qatar winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup on the back of a space age video.

Surely the need to make a public stand for what is right against Blatter at the election and, as a by-product, be thrown into the ‘revenge is sweet’ basket with England, does not surpass the need to do everything in our power to get the game right in this country.

Everyone knows the fight to reform FIFA will be a long, frustrating and complex. Change FIFA, the game’s reform activists and a handful of football associations around the world, know that they have a huge battle on their hands. 156 member nations (or 75% majority of the football family) need to be convinced to put aside their vested interests and vote for a transparent FIFA that is true to its motto ‘For the Good of the Game’. No question this is the good fight but make no mistake, it is a generational fight.

So let’s get to the point. Should Frank Lowy (vicariously through Ben Buckley) be slammed for supporting Blatter?

By endorsing Sepp Blatter’s fourth term in office did he show a lack of courage, as argued by many good people or did he, in fact, just take steps to protect our game – a game that is fragile and at the crossroads of its development?

From a strategic point of view and given the political landscape on which FIFA exists, what benefit/s could we have gained from making a stand against Blatter at the election? 

Standing up for what is right and moral and being known as an honourable football citizen - that’s one benefit. But why can’t we achieve that by operating within the current FIFA politically driven landscape and not running the unnecessary risk of damaging our game any further?

In a long and bloody fight what was the need to disadvantage our game, maybe irreparably, by following England’s bold stance?

People have applauded England for its courage in not supporting Blatter. People have said England has stood for the integrity of the game so why couldn’t we? Yep very admirable but give Australia the riches that come with a global EPL brand and I will more than encourage Frank Lowy to tell Sepp Blatter to shove his FIFA family where the sun don’t shine.

Truth is England has nothing to lose. They have been and will forever more be detested within FIFA for their historical arrogant and patriarchal approach – a reminder to the FIFA majority of the colonial days – and the Poms know it. They have nothing to lose and we have everything to lose and that is the difference.

To do nothing to force FIFA to reform is unforgiveable but to do it at an unnecessary cost to our game is equally unforgiveable.

Voting for Sepp Blatter was unpalatable but whether we like it or not, Frank Lowy did the right thing to protect our game. What he now needs to do is use all the disappointment, embarrassment and anger of being screwed in the 2022 World Cup Bid race and campaign strongly for real reform within the corridors of FIFA.

Stand up for Australian football or stand up for world football? Call me weak. Say that I lack courage to stand up for what is right. Say that I have no gumption for a fight. Say anything you like but for me the choice is easy......its Australian football all the way ....and I don’t think that I’m the only one. 

Copyright Four Diegos Media 1993