FIFA: the good of the game?

Paris - Of the catchy slogans that football's custodians at FIFA have coined over the years, the best is "For the Good of the Game," because that describes, exactly, the moral, ethical and sporting yardstick by which they are measured.

It means that FIFA and everyone connected with it should be football's servants. Nothing more, nothing less.

It means that FIFA and everyone connected with it should be putting football's interests, and never their own, above everything else.

It means that FIFA and everyone connected with it don't own the game but instead are merely there to care for it and to make sure that football - not them - prospers and grows.

And if FIFA or anyone connected with it is breaking those most basic rules, then they must thoroughly clean house or go. No excuses. Out.

Allegations in The Sunday Times of London newspaper this weekend that the votes of senior FIFA administrators can be bought for the right price are terrible for football if true, because they would damage the trust upon which the game is built.

Football's billions of fans need to know that the reason that FIFA chooses country X, Y or Z to host the World Cup, the planet's biggest single sports event, is because doing so is good for the game, not because it was good for those who make the decision.

They need to know that the winner was the country that put forward the best bid, that promised the best spectacle for fans, the best facilities for players and the best knock-on effects for football globally, not because that country's lobbyists offered the juiciest incentives or bribes.

Fans understand that football politics are part of a World Cup vote and that some FIFA members are going to back a bidder in their own region if they can. But they also expect football's custodians to love the game as much as they do and not to abuse that trust by lining their own pockets or currying favours.

In short, FIFA's incredible powers come with incredible responsibilities, too.

As long each and everyone one of them is clean, honest and is acting in football's best interests, then it does not necessarily have to be a problem that just 24 men - and they are all men - on FIFA's executive committee get to vote on the World Cup host.

But the process at the moment is murky, seemingly vulnerable to influence-peddling and, we now learn, perhaps worse.

The Sunday Times isn't the first to allege that corruption is a problem within FIFA. And it doesn't help that FIFA's own body to investigate such claims often seems to have more gums than teeth.

If FIFA members are abusing their monopoly for their own gain, then it must be time for new rules and for change like that which swept the International Olympic Committee after its tradition of gift-giving, favors and bribery was exposed in the bidding scandal for the Salt Lake City Winter Games of 2002.

Out went 10 IOC members. In came a regime of stricter regulation and, in 2001, new leadership under Jacques Rogge, a surgeon and Olympic sailor with a squeaky-clean reputation who runs a tight ship.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is promising "an in-depth investigation" into The Sunday Times claims that two members of the executive committee over which he presides suggested to undercover reporters that giving them money for pet projects - a football academy in New Zealand for one of them, football pitches in Nigeria for the other - could help buy their votes.

The newspaper did not report that money actually changed hands, so its story was short of smoking-gun proof that FIFA members can be bought.

FIFA's code of ethics is crystal clear: its officials must refuse "any gifts or other advantages that are offered, promised or sent to them" and are forbidden from "urging or inciting" people to offer bribes "to gain an advantage for themselves or third parties".

So FIFA needs to explain why The Sunday Times was able to covertly film Nigeria's Amos Adamu seemingly agreeing that $800 000 for artificial pitches should be paid directly to him and why Reynald Temarii from Tahiti appeared to tell the undercover reporters that funding for a football academy could be "helpful" in securing his vote.

The suggestion of votes-for-favours and that World Cup hosts might not be picked purely on their merits is not for the good of the game.

And, for FIFA, that is the only true measure to judge it by.

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