So, New FIFA Now held its first ever summit and it turned out the new wannabe FIFA is not like the old FIFA but not necessarily in the way it may have intended.
The January 21 meeting was convened at the Brussels HQ of the European Parliament, an idea of Damian Collins, a British Member of Parliament and outspoken critic of FIFA. As far as changing FIFA goes, the summit was a baby step in what will prove to be a long walk. But at least the event occurred and demonstrated some meaningful thought behind transformation rather than say, oh, I dunno, hiring a former player to front a publicity campaign for a betting company.
Calling itself the “Brussels Coalition”, the meeting ended with a “communique” (these are what press releases are called within the European parliament – it also sounds important) with a long list of aspirations that included a grand call for “candidates for the FIFA Presidency to agree to the establishment of a FIFA Reform Commission to be overseen by an independent international authority such as UNESCO”.
a. resolve and publish all current and outstanding corruption inquires [sic];
b. review FIFA’s constitution, statutes, codes of practice, and operational policies and practices;
c. develop new governance arrangements including governance-related committees;
d. oversee an independent audit of FIFA’s football development programmes around the world; and
e. conduct fresh elections for an Executive Committee including a new President.
Speaking at the event alongside Collins were a handful of European Parliament members and, among others:
Jerome Champagne, a candidate for the upcoming elections for FIFA President;
Bonita Mersiades, a former Football Federation Australia executive and whistleblower outed by FIFA after the release of the Garcia report;
Jaimie Fuller, Chairman of sports apparel company Skins, with advice on how to deal with FIFA sponsors;
Harold Mayne-Nicholls, former Chilean FA head, who served on FIFA’s World Cup bid inspection committees and is now ironically under some kind of internal investigation’ by FIFA.
Lord Triesmann, ex-England FA chief and head of its 2018 bid, who was critical of the World Cup bidding process and forced to resign his positions after he was taped claiming Spain and Russia were involved in a referee bribe conspiracy at the 2010 World Cup, related to their 2018 campaigns.
Yet what was just as significant was who did not make it to Brussels. David Ginola, attempting to run against Blatter, was not in the house. Neither was Prince Ali Bin Hussein, a FIFA vice-president and an alternative to Blatter with some credibility even if commentators who should know better have dismissed him as “some Jordanian prince.”
While CONCACAF, UEFA, and Qatar 2022 sent observers to Belgium there was no confirmed presence from Oceania, the Asian Football Confederation and CAF, the confederation for Africa. And this is where this New FIFA differs from the actual FIFA. Remember that FIFA is the sum of its parts and those parts are football federations around the world. Those organizations are the world governing body’s constituents and the ones who vote for Blatter – or hopefully someone else.
But will they? They showed little interest in this event.
And so, it has to be noted (and this is important) that while there were women in the room among the delegates, media, academics, and observers present in Brussels, the uncomfortable image presented of New FIFA Now was one that was dominantly white, male, and European.
It is likely that such an imbalance was not the intention of the organizers – who appear sincere in their wish to reform the game. However, this portrayal underlines the work ahead for a fledgling organization and the real challenge it faces. It must reach beyond talk and engage with the so-called “world game” outside its safe European home.