11 June 2014 | News Comments

FIFA operates 'like a mafia family'

Former Football Association chairman David Triesman has claimed that FIFA acts like a "mafia family" just a day before the start of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Triesman, who was the initial chairman of England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup, has previously claimed four FIFA members sought bribes in return for votes.

In the light of recent media allegations of corruption in Qatar's successful bid for the 2022 World Cup, Triesman stepped up his attack on the governing body, claiming attempts by the organisation's president Sepp Blatter to dismiss the issue was a tactic that would have been approved by movie Godfather Don Corleone.

"FIFA, I'm afraid, behaves like a mafia family. It has a decades-long tradition of bribes, bungs and corruption," he said.

"About half of its executive committee who voted on the last World Cup have had to go.

"Even its past president Joao Havelange has been removed from his honorary life presidency in his 90s.

"Systematic corruption underpinned by non-existent investigations where most of the accused are exempt from the investigation make it impossible to proceed.

"Foreign construction workers dying in their dozens in Qatar stadium construction sites are essentially ignored."

Speaking during a debate in the British House of Lords, he applauded the stand taken by current FA chairman Greg Dyke against the "grotesque" accusation by Blatter that criticism was racist.

He told peers: "Don Corleone, I believe, would have recognised the tactics and he probably would have admired them."

Blatter is set to stand for a fifth term as president, going back on a promise he made that he would stand down in 2015.

The revelation was met with outrage by many of Europe's football executives on Tuesday, including current FA chairman Greg Dyke, Dutch FA chief Michael van Praag, German FA president Wolfgang Niersbach and Norway's executive committee member Karen Espelund.

And Triesman believes Blatter's accusations of racism are merely a campaign stunt as the Swiss attempts to keep hold of the most powerful position in the game.

"I just think it's a way to try and curry favour in an election, it's an electoral stunt," he added on Sky Sports News.

"He really ought to be given no latitude by us in saying that it's grotesque, it's untrue and we have a press that is not motivated that way."

The 70-year-old added his voice to those who are calling for Blatter to leave his post but insisted he never gave the promise to stand down in 2015 much credence.

"His presidency and the presidency before it have been periods in which there has been massive controversy, terrible allegations never really investigated properly, and he has been the head of a culture which I think has been disastrous for world football," he said.

"You have to change that culture and the best way of changing the culture is to change the leadership." -  David Triesman

"You have to change that culture and the best way of changing the culture is to change the leadership."

Many have called for the voting for the 2022 World Cup to be reopened if allegations are proven but Triesman believes there could be an argument to restage the vote for 2018 as well.

Russia was handed the 2018 tournament at the same time as Qatar was handed 2022, and Triesman believes that opened up the possibility of decision makers 'trading votes'.

"I don't think you can leave the World Cup in any location where it has been awarded by means that are not legitimate," he said. "It would be tainted.

"I don't think FIFA will want to change any of their arrangements but the reality is that a tainted decision, particularly if it's found that the decision was driven by widespread acts of very considerable corruption, well what can you do?

"If you live in a society where you think rule of law has got some importance in the way you conduct your life then you've got to say you can't live with that decision."

He added: "A lot of the decisions that people took in voting for Russia, I've absolutely no doubt were closely connected in the decisions they took in voting for Qatar.

"In those circumstances I think there's a very good case for opening the issues up again."