Blatter Stands on Prinicple?

There's so much going on with those lovable rascals at FIFA these days that I honestly don't know where to begin.

So in fairness, I thought I'd lead with a situation where it is arguable that Sepp Blatter is absolutely correct.

Now when you read the news reports saying that Blatter is threatening to expel Spain from FIFA which, among other things, will disqualify them from competing in Euro 2008, if you're like most of us you naturally assume that someone just forgot to slip him his monthy envelope full of cash or something.

In fact though, it's - hang onto your seats, kids - a question of principle.

Earlier this year, for reasons which escape me, the Spanish Governemnt - having apparently solved all other problems in their country - decreed that every Spanish sport which did not qualify for the Beijing Olympics will be required to hold a leadership election prior to the start of those games this summer.

The problem is that the Spanish FA had already scheduled elections for this fall. It seems like a minor difference, particularly because the current President is almost surely going to be reelected regardless of when they cast the ballots.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

FIFA has a longstanding, rock-bottom, iron-clad policy that they, essentially, are beyond the control of individual governments. This is necessary simply because it's impossible to try and run an international sports organization if you have to get an OK from 208 separate governments before you can do anything.

On the other hand, Spain not unreasonably feels that if they want to make some laws regarding Spanish sports authorities, it's nobody else's business.

Last week a Spanish court unsurprisingly sided with the Spanish government, and the order to hold elections before this summer still stands.

Blatter is equally adamant that if Spain does not back down they will be tossed out of FIFA - he did something similar to Greece earlier this year which only lasted 48 hours before everyone came to their senses - thus making Spain ineligible to compete in Euro 2008.

Although it's difficult to see where there's any wiggle room in the two parties' respective positions, one hopes that someone can find a face saving solution somehow. And soon.

At the moment however, both sides have dug in their heels. Neither one can concede sovreignty in this matter without it having far-reaching consequences which they aren't about to risk.

And of course, as usual when arrogant governments, turf-defending bureaucarts, grandstanding politicians and pointless rules meet, it's the players and the fans who are most likely to have to suffer the consequences.

UPDATE: A few hours ago, the Spanish FA DECLARED THAT THEY WILL HOLD THEIR ELECTIONS THIS FALL as planned.

Of course there wasn't much question they were going to side with Blatter. Much better to defy the Spanish government than to defy Sepp Blatter.

The ball is now in Spain's court, and if they stick to their guns then it will be on their head, and theirs alone, if Spain is excluded from Euro 2008.

It's also tough to envision exactly what they intend to do: are they going to start arresting people if they refuse to hold a vote?

Hard to imagine them being willing to take that kind of a hit.