Should European footballing nations boycott the World Cup should Sepp Blatter remain head of FIFA? Would Russia, hosts of the 2018 World Cup, agree to any boycott of the tournament it ‘won’ the right to host?
Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin called the arrests of FIFA officials in Zurich on Wednesday “another blatant attempt by the United States to extend its jurisdiction to other states.”
Russia’s state-run Rossiya 24 reported:
“The United States, which plays soccer, not football, has drawn its best resources to investigate a foreign scandal, to meddle into affairs of others and impose its rules and laws.”
Vitaly L. Mutko, the Russian sports minister who says Russia engaged in no bribery, adds:
“So once again, they’re going to go through the case; once again they’re going to question people. You know, you can talk about corruption for as long as humanity will continue to exist.”
And Gazprom, the Russian state’s huge energy company, says it will continue its sponsorship deal with FIFA whatever happens.
Will Russia boycott the 2018 World Cup? No, it bloody well won’t.
Michel Platini, the UEFA president, wants Mr Blatter frog-marched out of FIFA. “We cannot work with [Mr Blatter] any longer,” he said.
Would UEFA boycott the World Cup? “We will consider all options,” replied Platini. That’s the same Platini who voted for Qatar as 2022 World Cup hosts ahead of the USA.
David Gill, the English face on the FIFA executive committee, will boycott FIFA. He said: “If Blatter is elected, I will leave my seat empty.”
David Cameron went on the record: “I welcome the probe into allegations of FIFA corruption and bribery, and support the FA’s call for new leadership and reform.”
Former FA chairman David Bernstein wants a boycott. “England on its own cannot influence this,” he said. “If we tried something like that, we’d be laughed at. If I was at the FA now, I would do everything I could to encourage other nations within UEFA – and there are some who would definitely be on side, others may be not – to take this line. At some stage, you have to walk the walk, stop talking and do something.”
(The English FA didn’t compete in the FIFA World Cup until 1950. The FA has called the Home Internationals against Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a more apposite ‘world championship’. That was then. Football’s World Cup now is presented as something much more important.)
But a boycott is costly. The BBC’s Dan Roan writes:
“…with £267million of debt still to pay off for the £757million Wembley Stadium, the FA simply could not afford to lose the revenue that comes with hosting World Cup qualifiers, not to mention the sponsorship that results from contesting one of the world’s most fabled sports events.
“A place on the International Football Association Board – the game’s law-making body – would be sacrificed, for instance, while England representative teams at every age group would be unable to compete in their respective world championships.”
As it happens, Dubai-based airline Emirates is no longer paying FIFA for sponsorship with South Korea’s Samsung poised to leave the FIFA family also.
If the money goes, so too will Blatter.