Alan Hubbard

Outside of the Pope, the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury, is there a paragon left who might run FIFA?

Football’s rotten-to-the core governing body clearly needs someone of unblemished and incorruptible character, untainted by the merest whiff of scandal, to take charge once the current hierarchy is consigned to history. As inevitably it must be.

The endgame seems nigh for President Sepp Blatter, now facing the strong possibility of criminal charges, and the man who was favourite to succeed him, Michel Platini, who clearly himself has some serious explaining to do.

Platini was compromised by his links to Qatar, hosts of the 2022 World Cup, even before the bombshell exploded about his CHF 2 million (£1.3 million/$2.1 million/€1.8 million) payment from Blatter supposedly for work done between 1999 and 2002.

This was characterised as “disloyal management” by Swiss investigators, who are querying the nine-year delay in payment for what the UEFA president describes as “a FIFA contract”.

Sepp Blatter is due to step down as FIFA President in February
Sepp Blatter is due to step down as FIFA President in February ©Getty Images

With Chief Executive Jerome Valke, slippery Sepp’s right hand man, on indefinite gardening leave in the wake of allegations he had colluded to sell 2014 World Cup tickets above face value, now also under investigation by FIFA's ethics committee, the ”FIFA family”, as Blatter describes it – making it sound like a line from The Godfather – is in a total mess.

The February election to replace Blatter is compromised to the point of farce as one by one his acolytes have their collars felt by the FBI.

We must emphasise that all, including the incorrigibly treacherous Jack Warner, deny any wrongdoing. But the damage is permanent. 

However, the power vacuum in world football has to be filled. But who can ride to the rescue of a body no longer fit for purpose?

Embarrassingly both the English and Scottish FAs prematurely have backed Platini. Yet he now seems unelectable.

Which probably leaves Prince Ali bin-al Hussein of Jordan, who failed to oust Blatter in the presidential election earlier this year, as the most viable candidate.

Prince Ali says FIFA has been “shaken to its very core” by the recent scandals – and change is not a matter of choice.

He is not wrong there.

He adds: ”The need for new leadership that can restore the credibility of FIFA has never been more apparent. We cannot change the past, but we can have a future where FIFA member associations are able to focus on football rather than worrying about the next scandal or criminal investigation involving FIFA leadership.”

An impressive soundbite. I have met Prince Ali, albeit briefly, and he seems an exceedingly decent bloke, as is his equally sports-loving elder brother Prince Feisal, a prominent member of the International Olympic Committee.

But does Prince Ali have the cachet and clout to ascend to football’s global throne? 

Jordan's Prince Ali will once again be standing for FIFA President ©Getty Images
Jordan's Prince Ali will once again be standing for FIFA President ©Getty Images
One would like to think so because he is clearly as straight as a die, someone of great integrity and intellect, which is what, at the moment, the game needs above all else.                                                                                            

But I am not sure he would garner sufficient support from the notoriously fickle FIFA electorate.

Of course should events dictate that Blatter is forced to abdicate before he does so officially in February, emergency measures would need to be taken.

I have heard it said, jokingly I suspect, that in this situation a call should be made to Sir Alex Ferguson requesting him to pack his hairdryer, catch a plane to Zurich and take temporary charge. He’d certainly sort ‘em out.

More seriously, the other British name I have heard mentioned as a potential saviour regrettably - for football - is no longer available. 

Surely Seb Coe would have been an interesting choice to become FIFA president had he not been elected to the same role at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) only a few weeks ago.

By an odd coincidence, Coe will be in Zurich later this month, ostensibly on IAAF business, though I suspect he will encounter those employed in FIFA's Swiss citadel who will say to him: ”Wish you were here.”

Ardent Chelsea supporter Coe was a member of FIFA's ethics committee until his work with London 2012 took precedence. He knows the game, and those in it, and his organisational and supervisory capabalities have been ably demonstrated.

And there is no-one better at exercising sporting diplomacy.

A world famous figure of international repute from outside the game is exactly what FIFA needs to restore its lost credibility, which is why Coe would have been ideal.

And, unlike the IAAF role it is richly rewarded monetarily, which would have allowed his lordship to forgo the hefty fee he receives from Nike as "an ambassador" that has brought accusations of a conflict of interest.

But that’s another issue. Meantime, the quest for a squeaky-clean supremo who can make the horribly scarred face of game beautiful again goes on.

I wonder, can the Pope free up the odd weekday now and again? If not, maybe he can offer up a prayer or two.