Graff: The Sham FIFA Vote

Graff: The Sham FIFA Vote

How the process for voting, and United States Soccer Federation's blatant role in the vote, shows that the same old FIFA will continue.

Steve Graff

Just on Friday, Gianni Infantino became the new FIFA president. Unfortunately, he became so for the same reasons as Sepp Blatter was elected and kept getting re-elected despite the continued growing evidence of the decoupling of the game from the civil societies and local cultures, and democratic principles the game is supposed to embrace. 

The Fundamental Transparency And Accountability Issues Are Left Unresolved

For one, it is the heads of the varying FAs and their associates making these deals. Many of these heads, including Sunil Gulati of United States Soccer Federation, often run unopposed unless business heads find a problem with the process. Although in theory, there is a nominating case. The civil societies and clubs as member/fan-run sports clubs, and the people in the nations at large, are left out of the process. If they aren't left out in the votes for the FA positions, then they are left out in the little information in the media about the elections that is released.

Without putting these votes up to the people, without hope for a direction and without additional checks to protect the institution of futbol as something of the people, by the people, there is no real hope for change on the inside.

So called "FIFA reform" will never really happen from the inside. The fact that legitimate political institutions cannot come in and intervene on behalf of the players, fans, workers, and community when club businesses deny them of essential needs, like wage payments, revenue to keep club facilities free and open to players, or adequate wheelchair accessible facilities for disabled supporters, or places for ultras and supporters group to organize and carry out their choreography, and so forth. These are also the codes that have to govern security at and around games, to not only ensure families can safely be at the game, but the game does not become so gentrified that the soul is no longer at the stadia and that the players and managers know for whom they are doing their jobs.

How The Deal-Makers In The FIFA Elections, Specifically Those Out Of The U.S., Are A Major Problem

Futbol, at its core, can be and has been a significant vehicle for democracy, expression, and community organization beyond what we see on the pitch. It has the power to not only captivate but to be the civil societies, and faces for civil rights and fighting injustice, that at times can crumble. Without building trust in the civil societies and without futbol as something fundamental to culture and that civil society, there would not be something a lot more fundamental to people's lives than "just a game": governance and trust in such.  

It is not the fact Infantino was elected, or any of the other names in the FIFA presidential race were elected. It might not have even been the run offs. It was that corrupters, specifically MLS commissioner Don Garber and Gulati played a central role. 

The corruption started and ended with their bargaining of FIFA presidential candidates. The bargaining process is how deal makers can significantly wield their influence to get what they wanted. Allegedly, one of the promises to not enforce one of futbol's most empowering principles and one that provides actual meritocracy to sustain the institution of futbol. 

That principle, the principle of promotion and relegation, preferably implemented based on results on the current season alone, is so important to sustaining the game that FIFA has coded the principle as an ethics principle in its bylaws.

As soon as the principle goes away, the 'regular seasons' don't mean anything and there is no incentive for the players to play and for directors to course correct on their club's performances. There is no "incubator" for new clubs and identities to test new ideas, and no romantic stories of small town or neighborhood clubs in the spotlight without it. Everything becomes a "monopoly" or about "maximizing profit".

With that, the professional side of the sport and the sport itself, begins to disconnect itself from the local culture. This is something the big clubs looking to replace the UEFA Champions League and play an MLS style European Super League all salivate at the thought of cutting themselves off from the merit based systems governing competition at home. 

In the face of the global economy and the pressure from super wealthy clubs to appeal to an extended "casual audience" and protect their "global empire". It was no surprise that here at this vote, Garber and Gulati, both of whom who worked very closely with Chuck Blazer and only disowned themselves from him when it looked like he was going to "rat them out" for propagating the corruption, came from a sporting culture constructed by and for its elite. 

The bigger scare was not how someone interested in closing off their pyramid and keeping futbol "a sport of the elite" in his home country, (he also is a person who routinely and overtly oversees the violation of fundamental FIFA bylaws critical to the protection of the game, including the free movement of players, and 'third-party owners'). The bigger scare for the world's game was how the members of the world's media, including those in the United States, not only failed to make any deal of it, but seemed quite comfortable with further corruption of the civil society of futbol. 

Gulati and Garber not only manipulated these elections to preserve the organizational corruption of the game in the U.S. and maintain the cartel that controls it, but also conveniently "ran away" when senators and representatives from the U.S. Congress were about to question them regarding the very structural corruption in the game at home and in FIFA. 

The sadder story is, the very corruption of professional sport, the preservation of pay-to-play, amateurism, and the control of media (via access rights and TV rights distribution), is the norm in the U.S.

From a model that was, by design, intended to close off access to sport to the masses, it is no wonder that Gulati and Garber were biased to try to steer FIFA governance in that direction. The world of futbol that has embraced the sport as one of the people, one only needing a ball to really play, and one that could be played on any surface, this is corruption of the sport. The "reforms" supposedly guiding these elections and regaining the trust of the public went for naught when Garber (and Gulati) intervened in the horse trading. 

Without outside forces and a means for the people to make the sport governance responsible to them, and as long as people like Gulati and Garber continue to have sway and not try to go after USSF, MLS, and Soccer United Marketing with full-force, FIFA will continue to be corrupt. This whole election process, thus, was a sham!