Fifa’s ‘hardline approach’ at World Cup will be to take the money and run

first_img Twitter Uefa members rail against Gianni Infantino’s plan for new Club World Cup Gianni Infantino Fifa report favours North America’s 2026 World Cup bid over ‘high risk’ Morocco Facebook Pinterest Read more If you want to update your “Where are they now?” files, you may care to know that Jeffrey Webb in fact pleaded guilty three years ago to racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies in relation to his role as a Fifa vice‑president – but has now received no fewer than six deferments of his sentencing date.The seventh attempt at judicial closure is due to take place in September, though the form book suggests you might want to avoid buying a hat until you are sure. Until then Webb remains free on bail in the United States, presumably distraught at not being able to make it back to his native Cayman Islands, where he is separately facing charges of conspiracy to defraud the government in connection with a hospital scandal.As a legacy project, meanwhile, it is just possible his anti-racism initiative was shuttered too early. “I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision but unfortunately I am not,” the task force member Osasu Obayiuwana said at the time of its demise. “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which needs continuous attention. I personally think there remained a lot of very serious work for the task force to have done – the 2018 World Cup in Russia being one such matter. But it is evident the Fifa administration takes a different position.” Gianni Infantino has promised a hardline approach to racism, while Fifa fined Russia £22,500 over abuse of France’s black players and England £16,000 over a youth player sipping an off-brand energy drink. Photograph: Luca Zennaro/EPA Share on WhatsApp It is almost two years since Fifa wound up its anti‑racism task force, declaring it had “completely” fulfilled its mission and was therefore dissolved. That a banana should have been thrown on to a Russian pitch eight minutes into a Champions League game a mere three days after this dissolution was obviously unfortunate; that the banana should have remained there until the 15th minute arguably began to look like carelessness.Ditto news that racist and homophobic chants have become more common in Russia in the season building up to the coming World Cup, according to a joint report by the antidiscrimination network Fare and the Moscow‑based Sova Centre.As for the reasons given for the disbandment of Fifa’s anti-racism task force back in 2016, they are perhaps no more shameless than the governing body’s excuses in other departments. It is probably less embarrassing to suggest you have no more worlds of tolerance to conquer than it is to concede that the father of this particular programme is otherwise detained, in this case helping the FBI with its Fifa-related inquiries. In fact, the Fifa administration’s position was that racism would simply not happen at the forthcoming tournament. “This is a very high priority,” explained the president, Gianni Infantino, last year, “and we will make sure no incidents will happen.” How? By taking “a hardline approach”.To this end we were privileged to receive another lesson in Fifanomics recently, with news that a £22,500 fine was imposed on Russia after their fans racially abused France players during a pre-World Cup friendly – a number not exactly dwarfing the £16,000 the FA was required to shell out when an off-brand energy drink was sipped by an England player in the dugout during the Under-20 World Cup last year.What a long way we have not come since 2004, when Fifa’s fine for Spanish fans’ racist chanting during a friendly against England was precisely half the financial penalty it imposed on Cameroon for wearing the wrong kit in the Africa Cup of Nations that same year.According to a Times report this week, several England players are “dismayed” by the sliding scale of racism/energy drink-related offences, fearing it might mean a certain softness on any incidents of racism once the World Cup gets under way next week. To which the most sensible response is sadly: prepare for just this sort of disappointment. Read more Share via Email Share on LinkedIncenter_img Share on Messenger Share on Twitter Topics Reuse this content Thus a timeworn performance will be staged in Russia. Every day someone from Fifa will be wheeled out to answer journalists’ inquiries about incidents that have taken place and every day the “product” – football – will happily provide the best possible distraction from things Fifa has no intention of dealing with, along with other manageable diversionary rows, such as those over VAR.Fifa cares infinitely more about things such as ambush marketing and infringement of its trademarks than it does about revenue irrelevances such as racism or homophobia. For all the slogans and all his affectations the new boss is just the same as the old boss. comment World Cup 2018 Share on Facebook Fifa Share on Pinterest The plain fact is that once these sort of mega-events are under way in host countries with questionable records on human rights or discrimination, the governing bodies are usually reminded of their place – which is to shut up, take the obscene amounts of money and run. It became embarrassing to watch the International Olympic Committee try to get through its daily press conference during the 2008 Beijing Games, its representatives squirming as they were questioned about various Olympics-related human-rights abuses, the sentencing of elderly Chinese protesters to hard labour and so on.But the governing bodies are hardly going to halt an Olympics or a World Cup. All broken promises are beyond their control – even though, of course, they knew precisely what they were signing up for when they were typically “given assurances”. Assurances, ashmurances. This stuff comes from the top and it is hardly as if Vladimir Putin is going to find racist or homophobic behaviour an embarrassment, unless he has spent years enshrining them in Russian policy by accident. Sportblog Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks.last_img read more