Checks and Balances for FIFA

Last week, representatives from five major soccer leagues around the world gathered in Manchester and announced the beginning of the World League Association. This was labeled as “a historic day” by new WLA officials, and the new alliance promised to focus on “protecting the game’s positive values, enhancing football’s standards and promoting the further development of Professional Football around the world.”

The timing of the WLA’s formation is interesting. Days before the WLA announcement, investigator Mark Pieth finished his probe on corruption allegations at FIFA. Pieth’s report condemned FIFA’s handling of the numerous bribery allegations that that have emerged since the controversial 2018/2022 World Cup announcement. Pieth’s committee concluded that FIFA’s management of the multiple corruption allegations was “insufficient to meet the challenges of a major global sport governing body. This has led to unsatisfactory reactions to persistent allegations.”

On the surface, it looks like the WLA could compete with FIFA down the road. At the very least, it presents the threat of an alternative, and so far the threat has been big enough to change the tone of FIFA President Sepp Blatter. As Pieth’s report started to leak out, Blatter forcefully came out and released improvements to FIFA’s ethics committee. The move was clearly intended to steer reporting away from some of the stinging criticism aimed at FIFA, and it is becoming increasingly clear that world football will not tolerate the monopolistic style that FIFA once held.

However, if FIFA goes down, it will go down slowly. The governing body recently extended it’s partnership with UEFA, and seemingly came to a compromise on a number of issues that have caused tension over the years. In particular, FIFA allowed provisions that insure player’s club teams in case they are injured on national team duty, along with making the international calendar more manageable for players. This compromise is fairly new to FIFA, as they have been known for making the rules without considering outside opinions. But the continual formation of new alliances like the WLA will make sure that they follow through on their promises.

Follow me on Twitter @adrianmelville

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