Uefa distance themselves from World Cup boycott calls

Concacaf general secretary Enrique Sanz provisionally suspended by Fifa

Protests against Sepp Blatter's re-election have increased the pressure on the Fifa president, with Uefa considering its options in the knowledge that a quarter of European associations defied Michel Platini's plea to oust Blatter from power.

Blatter secured a fifth, four-year term in office last Friday despite Fifa being engulfed in crisis following a week of arrests in Zurich. The fallout continued when the Football Association board member Heather Rabbatts stepped down from the Fifa anti-discrimination task force, while a debate in the House of Commons provided a unanimous consensus that Blatter’s re-election was a dark day for the game.

Michel D’Hooghe, the Fifa medical chief and an executive committee member, said he was considering his position following Blatter’s victory, the Belgian stating: “If you are faced with an abscess ... you have to cut it open.” The New Zealand barrister Nicholas Davidson also revealed his serious concerns and frustrations about his time with the ethics committee.

On Monday Fifa’s ethics committee provisionally banned Enrique Sanz, the Concacaf general secretary, and two Congolese officials from carrying out any football-related activities. However, the anger and disillusionment against Fifa appears widespread.


Uefa’s next move in the saga, though, is not certain. The European body, headed by Platini, had asked its members to vote against Blatter and instead back his rival Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, yet 10 associations defied those wishes while three abstained. Prince Ali received a total 73 votes – 40 from Uefa – compared to Blatter’s 113 last week, and those who rebelled included France, Spain and Russia.

Platini will this weekend discuss a plan to push for Fifa reform, holding a meeting before the Champions League final in Berlin on Saturday. A full World Cup boycott has been mentioned but Uefa insiders acknowledge that securing a consensus will be difficult and any direct action is more likely to involve removing cooperation from committees and, potentially, the executive committee.

Internal rumblings

Rabbatts' decision to step down from Fifa's anti-racism and discrimination task force comes after David Gill, the FA vice-chairman, rejected a place on Fifa's executive committee. Rabbatts addressed a letter detailing her resignation to the Fifa general secretary, Jérôme Valcke, stating that she would have written to the head of the task force Jeffrey Webb "but I understand he is currently not available". Webb was one of seven Fifa officials arrested last week in Zurich in the wake of joint US and Swiss criminal investigations into alleged, endemic corruption.

Rabbatts wrote: “This has not been an easy decision as I believe the challenges facing Fifa on the issue of racism and discrimination are very significant, particularly in relation to the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia, and whilst Fifa has not taken these issues seriously in the past, progress has recently been made.

“However, my willingness to play a part in the development of policies in this area is outweighed by the disastrous effect on Fifa’s reputation of recent events.”

D’Hooghe, who has been with Fifa since 1988, was even more scathing. “I cannot reconcile myself with an institution where I work, where I have carried the medical responsibility for 27 years and about which I now learn that there is a lot of corruption,” he told Belgium’s VRT network. “My conclusion is very clear: I will no longer continue to participate under such conditions. If you are faced with an abscess, simple medication does not suffice. You have to cut it open.”

Greg Dyke, the FA chairman, has stated a boycott could happen if other nations participated as well as England. John Whittingdale, the secretary for culture, media and sport, has spoken with Dyke and told the commons: "What remained of Sepp Blatter's credibility has been utterly destroyed."

The divisions within Uefa are expected to prevent a full World Cup boycott, especially given that the next tournament is scheduled to be held in Russia. The German FA president, Wolfgang Niersbach, has already said he would be totally against the idea of the holders boycotting the next tournament.

In the knowledge that Conmebol, the South American federation, was split over whether to back Blatter, some have advocated reaching out to Argentina, Chile and others in the region to take part in Uefa competitions as a rival to the World Cup.

Some Uefa nations may have been mollified, to an extent, by the fact a wounded Blatter did not follow through on his pre-election threat to strip Uefa of World Cup places in order to increase the allocation for other confederations.

The president of the South African football association, Danny Jordaan, has denied the country bribed Fifa officials to help secure the 2010 World Cup through payments worth $10m.

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