FIFA elections: ‘Time to look beyond Europe’

Presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale wants next chief to be from other regions as FIFA looks to restore tarnished image.

Sexwale is also head of a FIFA committee overseeing development of football in Palestine [Reuters]
Sexwale is also head of a FIFA committee overseeing development of football in Palestine [Reuters]

New York City, USA – Football’s embattled governing body needs to look for a new leader beyond Europe at its Congress in February, where FIFA’s new president is set to be elected, according to presidential candidate, Tokyo Sexwale.

Sepp Blatter is currently provisionally suspended for 90 days along with vice president and UEFA chief Michel Platini. Sexwale, a South African businessman and politician, was confirmed last month by FIFA as one of seven candidates to run for president next February.

Seven of the eight presidents to have headed FIFA have been from Europe and Sexwale, who is also an anti-apartheid activist and a former political prisoner, wants the next one to be from a different region.

Limiting sponsors’ activism
Major sponsors of world football went too far when they issued calls last month for the resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, according to Sexwale.
In response to the scandals, Coca-Cola Co, McDonald’s, Visa, and Budweiser owner Anheuser-Busch InBev, companies that have long linked their brand names to football, have issued almost simultaneous statements in October, demanding Blatter step down immediately in a strong push for change at the organisation.
“These companies have the right to speak. But I think we should be very careful how far we go with sponsors activism,” Sexwale said.
Sexwale praised, instead, a more muted statement by sportswear company Adidas, which supported FIFA reforms efforts without calling for Blatter’s ousting.

“I think the time has come for us to look at the leadership beyond Europe,” Sexwale told reporters at the Securing Sport conference in New York City.

“It’s been in Europe for quite some time, and Europeans should understand – I’m sure they will, given how democratic they are – that it’s time to give space to other people who can show ability and strength in other regions of the world.

“Football is more than just Europe and some green patches around the world. Almost 70 percent of the world’s football is played on brown fields.”

FIFA is currently embroiled in the worst crisis to have hit the governing body following the arrests of officials in Zurich ahead of the 2015 Congress and elections.

Blatter was elected president for a fifth term but announced his decision to resign just four days later.

US and Swiss investigations are looking into the bidding process of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups that saw them awarded to Russia and Qatar.

A separate investigation has also been launched into the 2006 and 2010 World Cups that were held in Germany and South Africa, respectively.

Sexwale, meanwhile, has pressed forward his agenda of reform ahead of the elections, insisting that change at the Zurich-based body was the only way to restore its image.

“FIFA is old; it’s more than a century old, and no organisation can continue for so long without examining itself or without reforming. But the problem is not unique to FIFA,” he said.

“Other similar organisations, when there’s not enough space for reform, discussion and change, they age and then they rust.

“There’s a crisis, and a crisis gives birth to something new.”


In September, FIFA reformer Domenico Scala went public with his proposals to clean up the governing body, proposing term limits, tougher integrity checks on officials, and fewer committees as part of a far-reaching eight-point plan.

The plan comprises a comprehensive and radical set of reforms, but it remains far from clear whether they will even be voted upon.

He proposed limiting officials to a maximum of 12 years in office, publishing their football-related earnings, and changing the way in which the all-powerful executive committee is elected.

But Sexwale stressed the importance of a democratic process in cleaning up the body, including establishing an open decision-making process without handing sole responsibility to the president.

“FIFA is the biggest organisation in society – bigger than the UN even. Football is played by millions and watched by billions,” he said.

“And you have one president to fix it? It’s not possible. The problem with FIFA is transparency and governance.”

Source: Al Jazeera


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