There are growing fears that Britain’s special FIFA privileges are under threat following the Football Association’s failed attempt to prevent Sepp Blatter being re-elected as president.
Argentina’s FIFA vice-president Julio Grondona referred to the privileges during his vitriolic blast at the FA.
There are also worries among some home nation officials that European support of their separate status and the British FIFA vice-presidency has been eroded by the FA’s decision to ignore the advice of UEFA members yesterday and press ahead with a call for the Blatter election to be postponed.
Another privilege enjoyed by the four home nations is a seat each on the International FA Board (IFAB), the game’s law-making body.
Jim Boyce, the former Irish FA president who took over as Britain’s FIFA vice-president yesterday, said: “There have always been threats around in relation to the privileges such as the British vice-presidency and the International Board, and there were more hints yesterday.
“Obviously the British associations are concerned that following those remarks someone may try to take the issue to a future FIFA Congress. That’s the threat and I hope it doesn’t materialise but we should be aware of it.”
FA chairman David Bernstein made the call to postpone the election despite several European countries urging him not to at a meeting of the 53 UEFA associations yesterday. Germany, Spain and Poland all spoke out, asking Bernstein to limit his speech to a call for radical reforms of FIFA following the bribery scandals.
UEFA president Michel Platini also made his feelings known, saying he was going to ask Blatter for a full review of FIFA’s workings and a secret ballot, both of which were granted. The FA’s proposal was defeated by 172 votes to 17.
After the vote Grondona had told the Congress: “I see it at every Congress. They have specific privileges with four countries having one vice-president. It looks like England is always complaining so please I say will you leave the FIFA family alone, and when you speak, speak with truth.”
Grondona has long been an opponent of the privileges, but he is second only to Blatter in the FIFA hierarchy so his comments carry weight.
After his speech, the prospect of a threat to the British vice-presidency was immediately the subject of a discussion between two of the home nations.
FA general secretary Alex Horne said that it would be an over-reaction by FIFA to target the privileges.
Horne said: “I think Grondona has always been anti it so on that basis I’m not particularly worried. I don’t see how or why they would try and get rid of the British vice-presidency, the IFAB and the things that come with it.
“At the moment it would seem overly reactionary.”
Horne said the FA’s priority was on their building relationships in Europe.
“Europe are very important to us,” said Horne. “We’ve just hosted the Champions League final and we’ve got the centralisation of broadcast which is very important to us in terms of our revenues, so we have to work very closely with them to make sure we sell our TV deal appropriately over the next four years.
“So our European relationships are the most important and that is what David and I have been focusing on.
“There was a meeting and we understood from that people would rather we desisted from what we were trying to achieve.
“We have spoken to the UEFA executive and David has spoken to Michel Platini and we think those are relationships we can retain.”
Meanwhile, Mike Lee, the former UEFA communications director who worked on the successful London and Rio Olympic bids, and on the 2022 Qatar bid, said the FA’s standing was now “at an all-time low”.
Lee said: “They do need to take a long hard look at their approach and recognise their poor performances in the 2018 bid, the more recent European under-21 bid when they received zero votes, and the FIFA vote they received yesterday, and have to accept this is not just about other people.”
Lee has written to the Parliamentary select committee’s inquiry into football with five recommendations. These include reviewing whether the FIFA privileges cause more resentment than help, and to target FIFA and UEFA committees on which to be represented.