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On the bench— Global

Preface

As current Uefa president Michel Platini announces he will run to replace Sepp Blatter as the head of Fifa, Steve Bloomfield takes a long look at the man who claims he’s ready and waiting to play the game.

Fifa, Michel Platini, Sepp Blatter

31 July 2015

All hail the saviour of world football, the knight in shining armour to lead us out of the dark, (allegedly) corruption-fuelled era of Sepp Blatter. A saviour has risen, promising a new dawn. Michel Platini, one of the greatest footballers of his generation, the silky smooth number 10 who could thread a pass through the eye of the needle, has humbly put his name forward to be the new president of Fifa. No longer will World Cups end up in tiny, oil-rich desert kingdoms. No longer will a culture of corruption be indulged. No longer will family members of the Fifa president undeservedly land cushy jobs.

You can see where this is going. The charge sheet against Platini is arguably longer than the one currently lying at Blatter’s door. This is the man who voted for Qatar as part of what the Financial Times claims “was part of a cosy relationship between France and the Gulf state”. This is the man who as president of Uefa (European football’s governing body) blocked moves to create an independent ethics committee to scrutinise his executive’s behaviour. This is the man whose son, Laurent, now works for a company owned by Qatar Sports Investments. This is the man who spent four years as Blatter’s advisor and who supported him throughout his presidency, only turning against his old boss at the last minute following the dramatic dawn arrests of nine current or former senior Fifa executives on the eve of this year’s Fifa congress.

If football wants to clean up its act, this is not the man for the job. And if football wants to remain a truly global game, Platini is not the man for the job either. In the last three decades, football has expanded far beyond its old European and Latin American heartlands. But Platini is old school – he believes the European nations are more important than those in Africa and Asia. While a Platini presidency threatens to do nothing to change world football’s culture of corruption, it could lead to a shrinking of its reach.

You would think such a desultory dismissal of half the voters would cause Platini some damage. But he is helped by the paucity of half-decent challengers. Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, the charisma-free anti-Blatter candidate in this year’s election, is likely to run again but most of his supporters only backed him first time around because of who he wasn’t. South Korea’s Chung Mong-joon will have Asian support but none from elsewhere. A handful of famous ex-footballers – Zico, Diego Maradona, David Ginola – may also throw their hats into the ring. But none have experience – or a network of support.

So it will be Platini. And a vague nod will be made in the direction of openness. And there may be another investigation into the Qatar decision. But nothing much will change. Despite the arrests and the never-ending stream of scandals, Fifa will probably carry on as before. There will just be a different overweight, slightly balding French speaker in charge.

Steve Bloomfield is Monocle’s executive editor.

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