Evening Standard

On to a loser: FA chairman David Bernstein leaves the stage after failing to convince FIFA delegates to postpone today's presidential election. Image courtesy of Evening Standard

England were left humiliated and isolated today as Sepp Blatter was ­re-elected by a landslide as president of FIFA.

Football Association chairman David Bernstein’s brave, but ultimately futile, attempt to have the presidential election postponed failed spectacularly as the 61st Congress voted 172 to 17 against his proposal.

Blatter then promised reforms to FIFA and to the way the World Cup hosts will be chosen after the 2022 tournament in Qatar and later won his fourth term in office with a comprehensive vote after lunch.

The support for Blatter was clear earlier when Bernstein’s failed attempt was followed by a string of vicious attacks against the English by delegates from Haiti, Congo, Benin, Cyprus and Fiji.

The strongest came from FIFA’s senior vice-president Julio Grondona of Argentina who claimed England are “always complaining”.

Attacker: Argentina's Julio Grondona. Image courtesy of Evening Standard

The head of FIFA’s finance committee added: “We always have attacks from England which are mostly lies with the support of journalism which is more busy lying than telling the truth. This upsets and disturbs the FIFA family. To present such a project as David Bernstein presented is like shooting a penalty because it cannot be always from the same place that the insults and problems come from.

“I see it at every Congress. They have specific privileges with four countries having one vice-president. I don’t know what our president has said. But we have seen the World Cup go around the world, to South America and Africa and it looks like this country does not like it. It looks like England are always complaining so please I say will you leave the FIFA family alone, and when you speak with truth.”

In an interview with a German press agency yesterday, Grondona called England “pirates” and added: “Yes, I voted for Qatar, because a vote for the US would be like a vote for England. And that is not possible. But with the English bid I said: Let us be brief. If you give back the Falkland Islands, which belong to us, you will get my vote. They then became sad and left.”

Grondona was angered after Bernstein claimed the recent scandals, which have culminated in two of FIFA’s most senior figures being suspended on bribery charges, had led to a situation where the election should be re-opened to new candidates.

“We are faced with an unsatisfactory situation. We are subject to universal criticism from governments, sponsors, media and the wider world,” he said.

“With this background the election has turned into a one-horse race.

“This should be avoided both for the sake of FIFA and the president itself. A coronation without an opponent provides a flawed mandate.”

After the vote went in his favour Blatter announced that the World Cup hosts will be chosen by a vote of all the 208 member associations rather than the 24-man executive committee.

The chairman of the ethics committee will in future also be elected by the congress. Blatter suggested that a committee would be set up to examine FIFA’s corporate governance and recommend changes.

He said he would learn from the “public anger” and would lead FIFA out of their current predicament.

He added: “We have been hit and I personally have been slapped. We have made mistakes and we will learn from this. I can say to a certain extent that this is a good warning, not just to look into our problems and I am willing to face the public anger in order to serve football.

“I am the captain weathering the storm, this is a difficult period for FIFA and I admit that readily. Not only is the pyramid shaking but our ship has drawn some water. We must do something because I do not want ever again that we face this undignified situation.”

Bernstein later insisted that his calculated gamble had succeeded as Blatter promised to make changes to make FIFA more ‘transparent’.

In a statement the FA chairman said: “After hearing the speech from Sepp Blatter, we believe the calls we have made for greater transparency and better governance have been worthwhile.”

He added: “We are confident The FA has played a significant role as a catalyst for change in the way World Cup hosts will be selected in the future.”

But while changes may be promised, England’s position within the football family is now a precarious one and this despite the head of the Germany soccer federation calling for a re-examination of the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and Mohamed Bin Hammam, president of the Asian Football Federation, writing to FIFA to complain about his suspension before the Congress had even begun.

Wales refused to back the FA’s call for a postponement and there are now fears that the four votes that the home nations enjoy – as indicated by Argentine Grondona could now be under threat.

It is also difficult to see how a united team can represent Britain in football at the London 2012 Games.


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