Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Now Leoz has left, Grondona must go too

Another of Sepp Blatter's inner circle has bitten the dust as Nicolas Leoz has resigned from the FIFA Executive Committee.

"I feel very happy because I'm retiring with the tranquility and knowledge of having done a sincere, honest job," said the Paraguayan, who is believed to taken kickbacks worth $730,000 from FIFA's ill-fated ISL media company.

In the fraught bidding process for the 2018 World Cup, he allegedly demanded a British knighthood or that the F.A. Cup be named after him in exchange for supporting England's application. In the end he voted for Spain & Portugal.

Leoz might not have wielded power as mercilessly as Jack Warner or Ricardo Texeira but rather epitomised the job-for-life fat cat many of FIFA's top brass had become since Blatter's predecessor and spiritual mentor Joao Havelange took control in 1974 and turned soccer's governing body into a hive of cronyism.

The 84 year-old Leoz is well past his sell-by date as an administrator, and although he cited ill-health as the reason for calling it a day, he is probably jumping before being pushed by the imminent results of the ISL corruption enquiry.

The other ISL bribe-takers Havelange and Texeira are now history, and with the removal of the embezzlers Chuck Blazer, Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam, Leoz's exit is hopefully another step towards a cleaner future for football governing.

The Ex.Co. now has a markedly different line-up to the one which made the egregious decision to let Qatar host the 2022 World Cup three years ago, a choice which could yet churn up Europe's domestic seasons and damage the competition indefinitely. US Soccer's Sunil Gulati is just one of several new faces.

Yet FIFA Vice-President Julio Grondona stands out as the last bigwig refusing to budge.

Like Leoz, he is an octogenarian from a different era and once admitted he was so obsessed by soccer the last time he visited a movie theater was in 1956 to watch Gone with the Wind.

In charge of his national association since the 1970s, the Argentine was also good pals with his country's former fascist dictatorship, and has won notoriety for some xenophobic outbursts.

He said a Jew could not referee in Argentina because "Jews don't like hard work", claimed a World Cup vote for the USA was "like a vote for England", and that England would only get his support for 2018 if its government handed the Falkland Islands over to Argentina.

While in charge of the Argentine Football Association, the police raided his offices 30 times for fraud and tax evasion, but Grondona 'the untouchable' kept his throne; no wonder he has publicly compared himself to the Pope.

It surely cannot be long before Grondona is shown the door too, but the persistence of Blatter, who recently hinted he will run for election again in 2015, is depressing. The ISL scandal was supposed to have been the magic bullet to end the Swiss' reign but the 77 year-old soldiers on apparently immune.

His so-called 'road-map to reform', a response to the avalanche of criticism regarding the last World Cup vote, appears to be stalling. Firstly, Transparency International walked out in protest at the chief of the independent governance committee being paid by FIFA but prevented from investigating previous transgressions.

Then last week, anti-bribery expert Alexandra Wrage also resigned from the panel in frustration at FIFA's refusal to implement any changes.

Meanwhile, the pursuit of recently removed Ex.Co. members goes on. Chuck Blazer's champagne lifestyle of antique cars, Caribbean homes and high-end restaurants could see him in court following CONCACAF's damning report that he trousered $35m in commissions while forgetting to file tax returns. The FBI are also investigating.

And Jack Warner, who was finally kicked out of soccer in 2011, has now also been booted out of the cabinet of Trinidad & Tobago's government following publication of the CONCACAF report into his fraudulent activities. The opposition PNM party are due to table a no-confidence motion against 'the Pirate of the Caribbean' this Friday.

For some time Michel Platini has seemed the saviour of the land of iniquity known as FIFA, yet as UEFA chief, his bizarre opposition to goal-line technology and insistence on expanding Euro 2016 to 24 finalists and spreading the 2020 hosting around several nations does not exactly bode well for the future.

But until one of the Ex.Co. newbies makes a name for himself, the alternatives to Blatter beyond the Frenchman are non-existent.

-Sean O'Conor


Alex said...

Articles like this make me depressed.

UnitedDemon said...

"I feel very happy because I'm retiring with the tranquility and knowledge of having done a sincere, honest job."

He then went on to say, "I thank FIFA for greeting me my first day with a Satanic Bible, a bottle of orphan tears, and a pair of flame retardant pants."