FIFA's top job: less gravy train, more treadmill

Wed Feb 24, 2016 7:40am EST
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By Simon Evans

ZURICH (Reuters) - For most of his 17 years at the helm of FIFA, Sepp Blatter traveled the world to be feted like a head of state, with VIP treatment for his private jet, police escorts to whisk his limousine to the best hotel in town, and gala banquets in his honor.

Whoever is elected to succeed him as FIFA president in Zurich on Friday will inherit a very different organization and a very different job, where crisis management skills are more important than delivering grandiose speeches to fawning audiences.

And, far from providing a platform to dispense largesse in return for loyalty, the position should come with tougher demands and closer scrutiny, thanks to a set of institutional reforms set to be passed just before the next president is chosen.

Had it not been for the sensational arrests of FIFA officials on suspicion of corruption in Zurich last May at the behest of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Blatter would most likely have carried on in the same fashion until 2019.

Then, either Frenchman Michael Platini or Cayman Islander Jeffrey Webb, previously the heads of the European and North American soccer federations, UEFA and CONCACAF, would most likely have succeeded him in a smooth, coordinated transition. And Blatter would probably have been named honorary FIFA president, and indulged with a platform at big events.

But Webb, now under house arrest in the United States, is among the 41 individuals and entities that have been indicted by the DOJ on corruption or fraud charges. And Platini and Blatter have been banned from the game for eight years by FIFA’s own Ethics Committee, caught up in the same whirlwind of legal and media scrutiny.


UEFA President Michel Platini (R) congratulates FIFA President Sepp Blatter after he was re-elected at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, May 29, 2015. Sepp Blatter has been re-elected as FIFA president for a fifth term after Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al Hussein conceded defeat at the Congress of world football's governing body on Friday. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann