Isolated in FIFA, English soccer focuses on Europe

After failing to halt Sepp Blatter’s re-election as soccer’s

leader, the country he calls the game’s ”motherland” is turning

its attention from FIFA to focus on its position in Europe.

The English Football Association proposed that Blatter’s

unchallenged ”coronation” be postponed amid the spate of

corruption allegations facing the global body, only to fail and see

him secure a fourth term Wednesday with 186 out of 203 votes.

With FIFA vice presidents speaking out at the congress to ”pour

vitriol” on England, as FA general secretary Alex Horne put it,

the country has never looked more isolated.

”We might have made some new friends, but pushed others away,”

Horne said. ”Taking a strong side like that will appeal to some

people and we’ll find out who they are in the next few weeks. …

Our tactic now is to make sure we’ve not damaged our relationships

in Europe.”

That is essential with UEFA now holding the key to a vital

revenue stream for the FA.

European football’s governing body has centralized broadcast

rights for qualifying matches to major tournaments from the 2016

European Championship onwards, giving the 53 members guaranteed

income.

”The centralization of broadcast is very important to us in

terms of our revenues,” Horne said. ”So we have to work very

closely with (UEFA) to make sure we sell our TV deal appropriately

over the next four years.”

But it could be tough working with Angel Villar Llona. The

Spanish FA president, who is also a vice president of both FIFA and

UEFA, complained at Wednesday’s Congress about attacks on FIFA in

the British parliament and media.

FIFA’s senior vice president, Julio Grondona, told the English

to ”leave the FIFA family alone” after ”telling lies.”

”I was surprised at how far Grondona and Villar Llona went in

terms of just rambling about politicians and journalists telling

lies – that seemed a bit over the top,” Horne said. ”Villar Llona

was probably more disturbing than Grondona actually, for him to

take the stage and speak like that.”

But Horne believes the FA hastened Blatter into announcing a

series of reforms in the wake of a bribery scandal that saw two

FIFA executive members suspended on Sunday, including Asian

football chief Mohamed bin Hammam, who would have been the only

challenger in the presidential election.

In a major policy shift, Blatter said he wanted future World Cup

hosts to be decided by a vote of all 208 federations instead of

FIFA’s 24 executive committee members. The congress also endorsed

his plans to revamp the ethics committee and bring in more

transparency.

”I think he has been pressured into going as far as he has

done,” Horne said. ”We’ll hold Blatter to account to deliver what

he’s promised. I’m as optimistic as I can be given we didn’t quite

get what we wanted. We didn’t get the deferral, but pushed them on

the other elements of reform.”

Blatter insisted that England won’t face any retribution, such

as losing its place on FIFA’s rule-making body The International

Football Association Board.

”There’s no bad feeling with any of the associations that

didn’t vote for me,” Blatter said. ”Don’t worry about the

English. The No. 1 national association in FIFA – the FA founded

the game in 1863 – have the right to be called The FA, Football

Association.”

Jim Boyce, who replaced Geoff Thompson as Britain’s FIFA Vice

President on Wednesday, fears his own position could be under

threat.

”There have always been threats around in relation to the

privileges such as the British vice presidency and the

International Board, and there were more hints yesterday,” Boyce

said.

While the FA may have lost friends within FIFA, its credibility

back in England appears to have been enhanced at a time when the

government believes football is the country’s worst governed sport

and is being investigated by a parliamentary committee.

”I’m getting that this will go down well at home – on that

basis I’m happy,” Horne said.

A more consensual tone was struck by Boyce, a Northern

Irishman.

”England as a football nation are undoubtedly one of the best

nations in the world, there’s no doubt about that, but sometimes

some people feel that there is a little bit of arrogance there,”

Boyce said. ”I’m just being honest.”