Football chiefs keep scoring own goals

Published by The Independent on Sunday (18th May, 2014)

We all make mistakes, of course. So it is easy to understand why Sepp Blatter is feeling a little rueful this weekend after confessing it was a bit of a blunder to hand the hosting of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. “One comes across a lot of mistakes in life,” said the Fifa president. Obviously it passed these people by that the desert state is insanely hot in summer; presumably they were dazzled by its reputation as a footballing powerhouse.

Any 10-year-old kicking a ball in the park could see that handing the world’s greatest sporting event to Qatar was daft. Its summer-day temperatures seldom fall below 40C and given the stench of corruption, the failure to keep promises and the enduring idiocy of the idea, the event should be sent elsewhere; we do have the precedent of Colombia giving up on holding the 1986 tournament.

Perhaps the best response came in a series of wittily sarcastic tweets from Gary Lineker: “Imagine the shock at Fifa HQ when… someone spotted that Qatar’s a tad warm in the summer.” More pertinently, he presumed the 78-year-old soccer chief would be composing his resignation letter. In fact, the admission appeared to be re-election campaign tactics, designed to undermine his main rival, Michel Platini, who backed the Qatari bid.

Platini is the useless Uefa president who wrecked the European Championships by greedily inflating a superb event to 24 teams, and so increasing the risk of boring games and making it almost harder not to qualify. He wants to do the same to the World Cup. Sadly, as seen with the latest scandal embroiling our domestic football chiefs, the beautiful game has an ugly ability to attract silly administrators.

There should be no question that the Premier League should sack Richard Scudamore, its overpaid chief executive, after the discovery that he sends smutty and sexist emails. This should be unacceptable in any modern organisation, let alone in a sport promoting itself to women. As the head of the Football Association inclusion advisory board Heather Rabbatts said yesterday, that with success and public interest comes an obligation to behave responsibility.

Yet the FA symbolises the strange sickness at the heart of this sport. It is only a decade since it was ensnared in sleazy stories of sexual harassment. Yet even its latest chairman, the previously admirable Greg Dyke, seems to have been infected; just look at his absurd proposals for Premier League B teams and protectionism against foreign players. If he wants to improve English football, he should improve coaching not ban Yeovil Town from hiring players from abroad.

From awarding a World Cup to Qatar to sending stupid emails, the people running football display unique talent for scoring own goals. Maybe we should kick them all out and start again.

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