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BULLETIN: June 2, 2015 — Blatter resigns, but what next?

The sudden resignation of Sepp Blatter as FIFA President, only four days after he was re-elected to a fifth term in office, raises sudden questions as to his posturing in recent days, the potential depth of the current investigations in both the United States and Switzerland, and the future of the world governing body of the sport.

In the near term, Blatter has a Women’s World Cup to oversee, then he’ll be trying to oversee a FIFA Congress to organize a new election and possibly a series of reforms. It’s these reforms which could be the single biggest outcome from this entire episode.

One reform Blatter named was term limits for top FIFA executives. But when it comes to how the organization is run, I think there’s going to have to be a much deeper reform, one which occurred back in 1787 here in the United States. That reform was the restructuring of the United States government from the Articles of Confederation to the current Constitution. Part of the tension between the 13 original colonies was the relationship between the states as well as the relationship to a federal power.

What happened, in terms of the formation of the U.S. government, was a separation of powers that also allowed the legislative branch a two-track system. One was a body which allowed each state the same number of votes, while the other gave more votes to the most populated states.

As I argued last week, the current setup in soccer gives every nation one vote. In other words, economic powers like the United Arab Emirates and China receive the same number of votes as small nations which have never made World Cups such as the Faeroe Islands and Monserrat. It provides incentive for people to “bundle” small nations into voting blocs and deliver them to potential candidates for election.

Such bundling could yield ridiculous results. In the case of CONCACAF (which represents North America and the Caribbean), it is possible for the three largest nations (the United States, Mexico, and Canada) to be outvoted every single time by the other 38 voting nations in the confederation.

The United Nations, for all its faults, could yield a new blueprint for new governance. Though the General Assembly includes every nation, the Security Council has five permanent members and 10 members who rotate in and out on a yearly basis. I envision a FIFA Congress which balances the interests of six continents and its 209 members.

The problem is that many of the 209 voting members don’t have a chance to even qualify for a FIFA-sanctioned tournament, much less win it. Many of the other nations do not have the infrastructure to host an international tournament, which makes the decisions to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups incredibly daft; even more now than when the voting was done five years ago.

It’s going to be difficult to project exactly what is going to happen with this turnover of power at FIFA, but I remember when it took six months between the indictment of John Erlichman and six other members of the Watergate conspiracy for the resignation of Richard Nixon as President back in 1974.

The Blatter resignation took fewer than six days.

Given what is already known regarding the governance of CONCACAF and the perception that the United States is an ATM for soccer promoters, there is certainly more to come.

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