As the leaders in world football meet in Zurich to vote for their next president, the growing pressure for change has become irresistible. Sepp Blatter’s defence against the terrible crisis that has gripped Fifa over the last few days is that it is unreasonable for him to have known what was going on within the organisation that he is paid a vast sum to lead.
Sepp Blatter wants us to believe that he a fool rather than a knave, but that is hardly a qualification to lead Fifa through the arduous period of reform that it must go through. The authorities in the USA and Switzerland have made clear that their investigations into corruption at Fifa are ongoing and there could be further arrests. The Swiss authorities, have not ruled out bringing Blatter himself in for questioning about the bidding process which led to Russia and Qatar being given the right to host the World Cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022. This in many ways was one of the most significant announcements of the last few days. Fifa have often behaved as if they are a law unto themselves; safe under the protection of the Swiss authorities. If Switzerland turns on them, they have nowhere to hide.
If Prince Ali of Jordan is elected President of Fifa then his agenda is long and daunting. Fifa needs a clear out and to show that it is fully and openly cooperating with the investigations into its past affairs. A good start would be publishing the report compiled for Fifa by Michael Garcia on the decision to award the World Cups to Russia and Qatar. The events of the last few days add further weight to the charge that this process was corrupted. Seven of the twenty-two people who voted on these decisions have been forced to resign following allegations of corruption. Chuck Blazer, who a leading member of Fifa's Executive Committee when the decisions were made, has now pleaded guilty to the US authorities to charges of “racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy”. There needs to be a rerun of the competition to host the World Cups in 2018 and 2022, so we can be confident that this decision was reached honestly.
There also needs to be more transparency in Fifa's day-to-day governance. Members of its ruling Executive Committee should be subject to the same rules declaring any relevant personal financial interests, as anyone else in public life. If we are to stop the culture of Fifa executive’s awarding contracts to firms controlled by themselves or members of their family, there needs to be open a process of declarations of interests. There should also be a clear and published auditing of Fifa's development programme for football around the world, so we can see how and where the money is being spent. The terrible thing about the allegations published by the US Attorney General this week, is her statement that up to $150 million may have been taken in corrupt payments to Fifa officials. This is money that should have gone back into the development of football facilities.
If Fifa fails to embrace genuine and radical reform, it is not just Sepp Blatter who could be shown the exit, but the whole organisation itself.