The beautifully tainted game

The beautifully tainted game

There is no doubt whatsoever, Fifa's reputation is in the gutter.

Years and years of corruption and controversial decisions have brought the game of football, the beautiful game no less, into disrepute.

It is a desperately sad situation for those of us who love the game and care about it deeply, but it's undeniable that the organisation is at an all-time low.

From the way it handles seemingly any of the situations it has to deal with, to its lack of transparency, through to its image and all the way down to how the people within football view Fifa - because it's not just the general public that distrusts them, there are plenty involved in football as well - the organisation is in a mess from the top down.

It's wrong, but it's all so nauseating, too.

It's a disgrace that it's got to this stage where there is a fundamental lack of trust in the administration that is supposed to be safeguarding the future of the game.

It's not surprising that people are demanding answers.

I don't think anybody has ever looked at Sepp Blatter as someone he would personally trust but, over the last few years, he has run Fifa like a dictatorship.

He is in such control that he can't be challenged. And if anyone dares stand up to him or puts his head above the parapet to criticise, he is ridiculed and dismissed.


As long as he has the support of the many committees Fifa is made up of - which is guaranteed because he ensures all decisions Fifa makes are to the benefit of those very committees rather than the game itself - then he is untouchable.

With that, you get situations like Qatar.

I think things have really come to a head with Qatar.

The decision to award them the World Cup in 2022 was a ridiculous one to begin with.

I am not against giving the World Cup to other parts of the world, countries that traditionally haven't had such a standing on the global stage.

You saw the success that can be garnered when the US hosted it in 1994, and Japan and South Korea in 2002, showed countries outside the European and South American elite can put on a wonderful show.

But there were so many genuine question marks about the legitimacy of the Qatar bid - not least the summer temperatures and the lack of ready-made stadia - that it is inconceivable it was the best bid on the table.

I was actually there when the decision was made as England was bidding for the 2018 World Cup, which went to Russia.

You could sense what was happening at the time.

I was campaigning late on, trying to win votes from the committee until the last minute with our Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham.

But we were the only ones doing that. No other country was making that effort.

I looked around and said to David that I smelt a rat. It felt like a done deal already. And of course, it was.

But that has just been compounded by what has happened subsequently.

If the bidding process was a farce, the fact Fifa has now seen fit to move the Qatar World Cup to the winter, with all the implications that it has on club football, it is a joke.

The consequent suppressing of the Michael Garcia report on the bidding process and the way the whistle-blowers were treated were frankly staggering.

Or it should have been - nothing surprises you about Fifa.

It has got to the stage where for the good of the game, something needs to be done.

But is that really likely?

The Fifa elections are being held tomorrow. Does anybody seriously think that Blatter won't be reinstated for another term?

There is no appetite for change within Fifa. Those committees are not going to turn their backs on Blatter now.

The only way to force through significant change is for the major federations to protest, maybe even boycott Fifa tournaments, and say "enough is enough".

But I wouldn't hold out much hope. Money talks at the end of the day.

All I do know is that, the way things are with Fifa at the moment, is terrible for the game, and it's hugely depressing for those of us who love football and love the World Cup.

Years and years of corruption and controversy have made Fifa an anomaly of the beautiful game it represents.

Gary Lineker is one of England's greatest players, and the only British footballer to finish top scorer at a World Cup (Mexico '86). Just before the news broke yesterday over the FBI's indictments of top Fifa executives, the former Tottenham and Barcelona star-turned TV presenter explained to The New Paper why change at the world governing body run by Sepp Blatter is necessary for the good of football.

This article was first published on May 28, 2015.
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