Blatter bluster comes to nothing…for now

December 4, 2009

Sepp Blatter conjured up a lot of bluster about the state of the game, in the wake of the Thierry Henry handball and the match fixing arrests.

His call for an extraordinary meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee promised some extraordinary decisions and was followed at the start of the week with the firm hint fundamental change was in the offing.

Visions of stricter punishment for divers, more power for referees to deal with the wrestling between opposing strikers and defenders at set pieces and a suggestion of extra officials to deal with the game’s more contentious moments hung deliciously in the air.

Blatter made one of his better analyses of the issues he felt were blighting the modern game in a question and answer session at the Soccerex business conference in Johannesburg on Monday, setting up the prospect that Wednesday’s extraordinary Executive Committee meeting would perhaps promise a lot more of the fair play FIFA is so quick to pontificate about.

Blatter appeared before the world’s media after the meeting and even then hinted at the juicy changes to come, stating quite clearly in his preamble that the future of the game was at a crossroads.

But then, as he explained what had been decided upon by the 24 member committee, it quickly became apparent the meeting was anything but extraordinary.

There was no agreement on any fundamental improvements.

One referee and two linesmen will stay in place for a while to come; a promised change to the playoff system at the end of the qualifiers will be reviewed by a future committee and Interpol is a new firm friend of FIFA.

It is clear Blatter’s knee jerk reaction to the adverse publicity in the wake of the Henry incident and the betting scandal was not appreciated by his more conservative colleagues.

It is not often the committee puts a FIFA president so emphatically back in his box, but a lid on Blatter’s exuberances is clearly now in place.

Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer are against any drastic tinkering to a game they know all too well and the Europeans, and their powerful television partners, think the playoffs are a superbly exciting way of finishing off the qualifying.

The game as we know it for the moment remains. Even with the handballs and contentious goal line decisions, it’s still a good product.

PHOTO: FIFA president Sepp Blatter is pictured during a media briefing on Robben Island December 3, 2009. The winners of next year’s World Cup final in South Africa will collect $30 million in prize money, FIFA said on Thursday after their Executive Committee meeting in the historic setting of Robben Island. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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