Drawing the Battle Lines: Blatter vs. the Clubs

Sepp Blatter is a busy, busy guy these days.

Of course his business travel bears little resemblance to yours and mine what with the private jets and stretch limos and five star accommodations and all the other splendid perks that go with a job where the accounting department does not require receipts for claimed travel expenses, a privelege which extends to all 24 members of the Executive Committee.

You can claim you spent ten grand on lunch from a street vendor and FIFA will dutifully cut you a check.

Truth is, no one really knows how much Seppy spends keeping himself in the special Swiss spring water which FIFA flies in for any restaurant or hotel he patronizes, or on anything else. His travel expenses, along with his salary and benefits packages, are closely held secrets. Blatter loves to talk about how "transparent" FIFA is and then refuses to allow any actual information out the door.

Reportedly, even the ExCo doesn't know the details. None of their business. He negotiates his financial arrangements with himself.

Is that a great job or what?

Which is why he dearly wants to keep it.

To that end, he's making a point of personally attending each of the Confederation congresses this year as they hold their own elections leading up to the FIFA Congress in June.

(CONCACAF will meet in May. Jack Warner will be reelected without opposition, just as he will be at the CFU Congress later this month; the filing deadline passed last week without anyone committing professional suicide - excuse me, I mean filing a petition to run against him).

Which in turn is how he ended up at the Asian confederation congress in Doha Qatar (one of his new favorite spots in

all the world) yesterday, gladhanding all and sundry (if there were any babies present he surely would have kissed them), reminding the delegates about the $250,000 checks he sends each of them every year and watching as a longtime enemy, Koreas' Dr. Chung Mong Joon, was voted off the FIFA Executive Committee where he has held a seat since 1996.

Many media sources are reporting this as a clear win for Blatter. These would be the same types of clueless nimrods who have been reporting that Blatter is now"cracking down on corruption".

(This ia a man who was originally elected to the office of President thanks to adidas President Adi Dassler sending his bag man to Zurich to hand out envelopes stuffed with money; reportedly there was a long line of delegates outside his hotel room and the deal was $50,000 down and $50,000 after the vote. Fortunately, the followup payments were delivered, in plain brown envelopes stuffed with US $100 bills, directly to their rooms. Thoughtful that. The idea that Sepp has any interest in ending "corruption" in FIFA would be laughable if it wasn't so sad)

(While not nearly enough media outlets have grasped this simple fact, one of them did provide A LIST OF THE COMMITTEE MEMBERS which would also be laughable if it wasn't so close to the probable truth.)

As I mentioned a week or two ago, one of Jordans' spare Princelings, Ali Bin al-Hussein, was the man who beat Chung out for the job and, while he's not noted for any particular hatred of Blatter his election further emphasizes the sudden and dramatic Middle Eastern influence within FIFA and it's governing body.

(Time was that extra Princes got knocked off; now, apparently, when big bro gets the throne you get a FIFA expense account and a house in Zurich.)

Even more significant was the unanimous re-election of our old friend Mohamed bin Hammam of - well, of Qatar - as President of the AFC.

A few years ago bin Hammam made some noises about running against Blatter and Seppy made so much trouble for him within the AFC that he was lucky just to keep that job and spent the next year or so pledging his eternal loyalty to President Blatter.

Yesterday however, perhaps smelling blood in the water after - ironically as all hell - Blatters' oversight of Qatars' blatant hijacking of the 2022 World Cup, suddenly he's SINGING A DIFFERENT TUNE:

“Some of FIFA’s acts I do not approve of or agree. FIFA need a lot of improvement,”

Then there was THIS:

The Asian Football Confederation president, asked if he would stand against Fifa president Sepp Blatter for election, smiled broadly and shrugged his shoulders;

Asked if he thought the time has come for a change at the highest level of Fifa, he replied: "A change is a demand for an improvement really. I cannot be 100 per cent frank with you, but I think Fifa needs lot of improvement. I think there is a scope of work I can do, there is something I can present and do for international football.

"Perhaps there are other people who share the same opinion, and they have the same views as me. I have the support of people who have the vision to develop the game and improve the situation within Fifa. If I was given this chance, I would not hesitate to accept it."

At this point, Blatters' campaign strategy is clear, and it's pretty much the same as it's always been:

Get the have-nots, who are in the majority, to side with him against the haves.

Only in this case, instead of the big federations, who have proven remarkably gutless in the past (*cough*Sunil Gulati*cough*) he's getting down and dirty with the big clubs.

Blatter told "a FIFA interviewer" (nothing like sticking your neck out) that the problem with world soccer is that there are "too many league matches", which interfere with all those lovely international games.

The fact that international games put money in the pockets of the people who vote for FIFA President while they get nothing at all from league matches is surely coincidenta, don't you think?

Blatter went on:

"In my view,... domestic championships are too long because there are too many teams and too many matches,"

"Teams in leagues with 20 clubs play 38 games, on top of which they also have national cup competitions and league cups, etc.

"This also creates a conflict of interest between national teams and clubs, some of whom complain that their players come back tired or injured. That's not the fault of the international calendar, however, and it's a subject that ought to be discussed."

This is in direct opposition to the emerging position of the clubs themselves, as expressed by European Clubs' Association president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who is increasingly critical of what he calls "nonsense games" like, for example, Spain having to fly to Mexico less than a month after winning the World Cup.

The clubs don't like it, the players sure don't like it but the federations involved just love it. It's like printing money.

The question is, obviously, is Blatter in real trouble?

The answer is: not yet.

His opposition isn't well organized yet, although ten or twenty million petrodollars invested in putting bin Hammam in office could quickly change that.

And while the small federations around the globe are indeed happy about the yearly $250,000 check which places like the US, Germany and England deposit in the federation bank account but an awful lot of other guys simply steal, if they believe that those checks are going to keep coming no matter who is in charge they may be willing to consider whether Blatter has become, overall, a liability.

Either way, it's going to be fun to watch.