As well as being a former Newcastle United, Tottenham and Aston Villa midfielder, David Ginola, was also known for advertising a certain brand of shampoo on TV. I’m not sure how much he was paid for his services on that particular enterprise, but I’m sure he was worth it. Ouch, sorry about that, just too big a temptation to resist though. The flamboyant footballer now however appears to have thrown his hat into the ring for the populist post of being the man who ousted Sepp Blatter from Fifa. Or has he?
Quite how serious the bid to stand in the upcoming elections is will be played out over the coming weeks and months. The 47 year old’s move is apparently being backed by online betting company Paddy Power, who have apparently pump-primed the bid by putting some £250,000 into the scheme and as was announced at yesterday’s press conference, now inviting the public at large to top up the funds. Hmm.
The general press reaction seems to reflect a somewhat, and understandably sceptical approach to Ginola’s apparent bid for power. When questioned even superficially about the Fifa organisation and the members of the various boards and committees, the responses betrayed not only a lack of knowledge, but also a palpable lack of any basic research to enable him to address the sort of questions that would inevitably arise.
The real purpose behind the exercise may be exposed by the fine print of the manifesto, which suggests that once a certain figure for donations is reached, 10% of a sizeable chunk of the next tranche will be paid to Ginola himself. The remainder will go to press agencies, promotions, etc. With the Frenchman launching the bid in front of a backdrop advertising Paddy Power, it hardly looked like a credibly serious move.
To get onto the ballot paper, Ginola will need to garner the support of five football associations and provide proof that he has been ‘involved in football’ for two of the last five years. As an ambassador for England’s abortive bid campaign to secure the 2018 World Cup tournament, he may be making a telephone call to FA headquarters in the near future, to canvass their support. Whether he can hit those particular criteria and offer even a semi-serious bid may be a matter of conjecture, but whatever other aspirations Ginola had in mind for the announcement, it has certainly raised his profile across the sports pages as many splash headlines with the news.
There is of course an unspoken campaign for the ABB (anyone But Blatter) movement, and two other contenders have already lodged their credentials to stand against the Swiss incumbent. Fifa vice-president Prince Bin Al Hussein recently joined Jerome Champagne as declared runners to unseat Blatter who has been heading up the organisation for far too long in many people’s opinions, and is now seeking a fifth term in office. Although the gathering of opponents may seem to be a threat to Blatter, in reality, the more opponents he can garner, the more the anti-Blatter vote would potentially be split, thus smoothing his way back into the his comfortable chair of office. There’s a good opportunity here for Blatter to encourage more candidates to stand and challenge him, espousing the values of democracy and choice, when in reality it would serve the opposite purpose. It’s difficult to envisage the wily old campaigner missing such an open goal.
If there is to be some kind of revolution at the top of the game, what is really needed of course is one serious contender that can unite the diverse factions that all favour ousting Blatter. A candidate that others can rally around and present a realistic chance of victory could develop a momentum that may sweep Blatter, together with all the cronyism and ill deeds, from the organisation that should be working for football rather than riding some gravy train. Whether Ginola is that candidate is highly questionable. Champagne or Al Hussein potentially may be, but only if one of them has the grace to step aside in the cause of the greater good and offer support to the other. If either have been influenced by the less than altruistic operations of the top people at the organisation itself, that is unlikely to happen.
It still remains by far the most likely outcome that after all the campaigning is done and all of the votes counted and the wheel will have turned not one inch, and Sepp Blatter will be secure in his position for another term. For many, the writer included, that will not be good news for the good of the game. Although from the outside it impossible to speak definitively of corruption and self-serving misdemeanours there is so much smoke around that it’s almost inconceivable that there are no fires burning at Fifa. Will Blatter be a reformed zealot, running around with a pail of water to put out such fires, or will he rather retain the ‘cover up’ and disseminate approach deployed for a lot of his tenure. Probably not.
As for Ginola, it’s interesting to wonder what sort of odds Paddy Power would offer on his success. Pretty long would be a fair estimate. If this sort of ham-fisted publicity campaign shamming as a real attempt to unseat Blatter is the best that the football world can offer, it cannot really complain is the autocrat retains his power. I mean, who has ever heard of a former French international footballer running an international football body really isn’t likely to happen. Er, hang on a bit.