I’ve read a lot of the British and some of the US coverage of the current FIFA imbroglio and while there’s no doubt that the whole organisation stinks like a week-old halibut, I’m not in a position to form an objective judgement on whether Sepp Blatter, the current FIFA President, is an evil mastermind or an innocent victim of wicked men.
But what I am absolutely sure of is that there is no real prospect of him resigning anytime soon. Why would he?
Whether Blatter has done anything wrong or not, if he quits now he relinquishes any control he might have over the situation. The miasma of corruption that is surrounding the upper reaches of FIFA is such that any successor elected now would have little choice but to throw Blatter to the wolves. Whatever the eventual outcome is, Blatter can be reasonably sure that he would have to spend many more years defending himself and his conduct without any kind of organisational backup. He’s 79 now; and I can’t imagine he wants to spend his remaining years and financial resources fighting off corruption allegations and everything else that goes with it.
On the other hand, and seeing how FIFA appears to conduct its activities, Blatter can be reasonably sure that there are a substantial number of delegates who don’t have much of a problem with how he is alleged to have run things and will continue to support his Presidency. If he hangs on, he retains some ability to influence how the investigations are conducted and he continues to have the corporate weight – and financial muscle – of FIFA at his back. And who knows? Something may turn up to get him off the hook.
The historical parallels are with authoritarian dictators. Men like Bashar al Assad and Robert Mugabe don’t necessarily cling on to power against all the odds because they want to, but because they’ve got nowhere else to go. Once the powerbase has gone, they’re pretty much finished, however carefully they’ve tried to plan their exit from the scene. Think of Mubarak in Egypt, Gadaffi in Libya, Ceausescu in Rumania; the list of dictators who have managed a quiet and peaceful retirement in recent years is pretty short.
Which is not to say that Sepp Blatter is anything like those men, but he’s in a similar position. He’s unlikely to be able to walk away from FIFA now without any consequences, so why do it?