Fifa ‘not always welcome in England’

2011-12-05 14:42

Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke has told AFP that his organisation does not always feel welcome in England, after a year in which relations between Fifa and the home of football have deteriorated.

Fifa, world football’s governing body, has been antagonised by the British media’s attempts to uncover corruption in the organisation, while England was hurt by Fifa’s decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia.

Speaking at a press conference in Paris announcing the three-man shortlist for this year’s Fifa Ballon d’Or on Friday, Valcke appeared to suggest that Fifa did not consider London a suitable venue for the organisation’s events.

Discussing Fifa’s desire to take the awards ceremony away from Zurich, Valcke said: “We’d need to discuss between ourselves whether it’s Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, London – London, I don’t know – Paris, Barcelona, Madrid or other European cities.”

Afterwards, Valcke said that he simply meant that Fifa would prefer to visit countries that have provided Ballon d’Or nominees, but he conceded that relations with England were frosty.

“It was because all the winners and the names on the list come from Spain, so it was to say that it would make sense that if we wanted to recognise that, we could go to Spain,” he told AFP.

“Are we not welcome in England? I don’t know. If I read the media every day, it’s true that, personally, my feeling is a bit that – but that’s my own feeling.”

Asked if Fifa were worried about England feeling alienated by Fifa, he responded: “No, it’s fine. It’s the freedom of the world.

“We’re in a democratic world so everyone is free to say whatever they want... They’re still a member of Fifa, no? There is no problem.”

In an interview with Swiss newspaper Le Matin Dimanche published yesterday, Fifa president Sepp Blatter suggested England’s desire to expose corruption was due to sour grapes over the 2018 World Cup bidding process.

Valcke, though, defended the British media’s right to criticise Fifa.

“The way the UK media analysed or worked on Fifa did not start with the (2018 World Cup) decision last December,” he said.

“It’s a long, long thing. The media in England are as they are and the media in other countries are less interested, or maybe they don’t have the same approach on Fifa and football.

It’s true that it’s mainly in England that you see this kind of situation... But that’s democracy.”

This year has been a black one for Fifa, amid corruption allegations over the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and former Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam’s lifetime ban for trying to buy votes in the Fifa presidential election.

Blatter has admitted that the organisation’s image needs repairing, and in October he announced the creation of an independent governance committee, but Valcke said the clean-up process could take up to two years.

“The governance committee will start its work soon, under the leadership of the chairman, Dr (Mark) Pieth,” he said.

“The goal is for them to bring some first ideas to the Fifa Executive Committee in December. Then in March, if there is a change of statutes, it has to go to the (Fifa) Congress in (May) 2012.

“I think not all of it can be done in 2012, so potentially it will be extended to the Congress in 2013.”

He added: “We are working. The goal is not that it cannot happen again. Who can say if it will happen again? Nobody. We are talking about humans – they can do whatever they want.

“It’s like controlling speed. To make sure you have less accidents on the roads, you need to put more cameras and be more visible.

“In that way we can monitor, we can track and we can sanction whoever’s doing something wrong within the system.”

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