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The recent disclosures about the scandals in world football, so graphically documented on this website, not only raise serious questions about football and its lack of morality but also about how such issues are treated in the western media.

That football has become a business is now so taken for granted that it hardly seems worth repeating. However the problem with the football business is that the business is self regulated. That may be true of all sport but no sport is such a huge business that football has become in the last two decades.

Now that would not matter if in becoming a business the sport had acquired some of the sense of corporate responsibility that is now expected of modern businesses. But it has not. Football still clings on to an almost mafia like belief that it is a family and what is does must remain within the family.

It must be said business for a long time displayed just such an attitude.

Nearly 40 years ago when I first became a journalist the City of London exhibited the sort of morality that might have made even the modern barons of the world game pause, if not shudder in shock. I was more of a City journalist then with my sports journalism confined to week end match reporting for the Sunday Times. So I witnessed at close quarters the sort of City activities that were considered quite normal.

For instance, insider trading was not only normal but something actively promoted as a sort of City perk. Indeed City traders liked nothing better than using privileged information about results of companies just before they were made known to the public to enable them to make a packet on the stock market. And then there was Lloyds of London whose goings on then would make the recent events at FIFA and in the Asian soccer confederation look like small beer.

But what is significant is that the City was reformed. Insider trading was made a criminal offense. And after a long struggle it was recognised by the authorities that Lloyds of London had to be reformed, it could no longer be allowed to regulate itself, shades of what is happening to the newspaper industry now. But this is where we come to the heart of the problem with football.

Football has always believed that it is capable of regulating itself. That such self regulation is not understood and can cause problems even for people in the game is evident from the reaction of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers to the punishment meted out to Luis Suarez. Among the many astonishing things Rodgers said about the ten match ban on his player, the most astonishing was his claim that the FA commission which had judged Suarez guilty was not independent. The Liverpool manager seemed surprised that it was composed of people from the FA. The implication of Rodgers’ remarks was that he expected the FA commission to be totally divorced from the FA just as the judiciary of this country is separate from our law makers.

Rodgers did not explain how this could be. The justice system at the FA comes under the overall umbrella of the FA but the organisation is at pains to make sure that the actual regulatory system is not controlled by the FA council or the executive body that runs the organisation. Given that before every season the FA goes round clubs informing managers and other club officials how the system of discipline works such ignorance on the part of Rodgers does seem strange. For Rodgers to say what he did does make you wonder what world he is living in.

But whatever the world Rodgers inhabits, his failure to understand how football administers justice raises the larger question of whether the game can any longer be entrusted to administer its own justice. A question all the more urgent in the light of the scandals constantly being exposed about the world’s most popular game, and especially this time round in Asia where there are daily accusations of voting influence by prohibited bodies and persons, and even human rights organisations adding their letters of concern. Is it not time that like Lloyds of London it came under some legislative scrutiny.

I appreciate that in the case of a world wide body this can be difficult but if there can be a world court of justice to try politicians who have committed crimes then it is not impossible to see a regulatory body that sits in judgement on alleged criminals in the football world.

Those who argue that football can still administer its own justice will point to the report by the FIFA ethics committee about the ISL scandal and the bribes that were paid by this marketing organisation to leading FIFA officials. The report may have led to the resignation of Joao Havelange, the man who made modern FIFA, but the report inspires little confidence that FIFA is capable of regulating itself. FIFA may claim that its ethics committee is at arms length but the way it decided that FIFA President Sepp Blatter was “clumsy” in his handling of the ISL bribes scandal demonstrated that the investigation failed the great Watergate test.

Recall that scandal that forced Richard Nixon to leave the White House turned on two questions: what did the President know and when did he know it. The FIFA ethics committee for all its claims to be an independent body does not appear to have asked these questions of Blatter leading to its remarkable conclusion on Blatter’s role in this whole sordid affair.

The need for such independent scrutiny is, if anything, even greater given what is happening in the Asian Football Confederation. The events there, reported in such graphic detail by this website, read like a thriller except had it been presented by a fiction writer it would have been dismissed as too fanciful to be credible. But in real life it is happening.

And here we come to the western press. The western media can take great credit for its relentless pursuit of the truth about ISL and FIFA. Without such media investigation, often in the face of much hostility if not obstruction from FIFA, the truth would never have emerged. In that sense the journalists who have pursued the ISL story have been the Woodward and Bernstein of football.

However the goings on in Asia and the activities of the men in charge of football on that continent, and those who seek even greater control over the Asian game, put even what has happened in FIFA in the shade. But despite the extensive reporting on this website there seems little interest in the western media about it.

Why?

Is it because Asia is considered a remote continent? I hope it is not because the Asians are considered to have a different morality than the people who run FIFA. If that was the attitude, that would amount to reverse racism.

We would not have to ask these questions if there was a truly independent world body capable of examining FIFA and the other organisations that run the game. But given that British MPs when given a wonderful chance to regulate football in this country flunked the opportunity that seems an unlikely hope. This leads to the dismal conclusion that we shall hear much from these very same MPs about what FIFA and Blatter should do. However nothing will emerge to make sure the world game is run on the basis that would inspire confidence, that wrong doing would first be detected and the wrong doers punished.

The world’s most popular game will continue to make all the wrong headlines without ever suggesting it was capable of reform let alone fit for purpose in the 21st century.

      

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