Look at those two. Pudgy Swiss lawyer and ex French football legend: the world of football is dominated by two individuals who hail from two neighbouring countries. Between Sepp Blatter, now in his twelfth year as FIFA president, and Michel Platini, in his third as UEFA president, there is little to choose from, let alone viable alternatives: Platini looks indeed primed to succeed Blatter when the old man will finally call it a day.
I imagine Sepp Blatter’s world to be very much like that of F1 mogul Bernie Ecclestone. Dining, wining, back scratching, lots of work to be done and, particularly in Blatter’s case, large part of it involves finding juicy excuses to procrastinate. While Ecclestone has changed the rule book time and again since his election in the early nineties (albeit, history seems to hint, to the favour of one team), Blatter has changed very little, and none of that seems to have gone in favour of making the sport more practical.
A quick look at his main proposal right now is that of introducing the 6+5 rule (a restriction where teams can field 5 foreign players and the remaining 6 players have to be of the same nationality as the team). Fair proposal, which might eventually bring football back to earth somehow, even though I’m not sure it will deflate prices (I’m curious to see Inter and Real Madrid will apply the rule). But, that said, it’s not the real priority.
After a World Cup where referees made a hash of their job, you’d expect him to look into the introduction of technology. And by that I don’t just mean goal-line technology (it’s 2010, man is now selling property on the moon yet we can’t tell if it’s a goal or not until we see the replays, and the ref doesn’t get to see those). I spend quite a chunk of my free time playing Pro Evolution Soccer. If a computer simulation that should keep overgrown kids busy can get even the tightest of offside calls correct, then, why do we still employ linesmen? It’s nice to abuse somebody and I’m all for abuse, but, let’s face it, did anyone ever really find something nice to say about a linesman? Of course not. Their only function is to see whether throws are taken properly, otherwise they scourge the lines waiting to receive tons of abuse from fans behind them. Or in seats and pubs around the world.
In 2010, the notion of human error is a dangerous justification to accept. I cringed when Blatter himself apologised to England and Mexico in the last World Cup after referees (Larrionda and Rosetti, not Sunday league beginners) for “evident referee mistakes.” Why apologise for the ref when you’re the top of the leaderboard in I’m The Luddite?
At worst, a computer will trip, but he can’t be bribed, it never feels tired or disturbed by the sun’s rays, and to programme him to “give Italy a hard time” will take a few years. In which case you can get the usual panel of experts to radio the ref saying “Uh, look, Howard, it’s just that on TV it looks like you cocked up, so, erm, the goal it kind of… yeah it stands. No it only went it by three metres, yeah. Yeah, bye. Say hi to Stella from me and Narabandjian.”
It doesn’t take ages to tell the ref he’s wrong, like hockey or basketball. But go figure, Blatter prefers bringing homegrown talent to the fore. And I’m not surprised, because it’s a good enough if unpractical tactic to keep critics at bay while corruption charges are traded to both FIFA and UEFA. Even though, in the abyss of my heart, I can’t help wondering why Blatter and Platini do not introduce a salary cap and a similar limit on the prices at which players are allowed to move clubs these days. Telling clubs they can only spend sums in the transfer market based on their income might curb the odd Manchester City spree, but will actually limit the smaller teams from investing enough money to stay in the top flight (think of Blackpool for example).
On the other hand, installing a few cameras and technologies costs less than CR7’s right boot, but don’t tell Blatter: otherwise France wouldn’t have made the last World Cup.
written for footballxs.com