Monday, 31 July 2017

Cast out even further

Does FIFA want any more members?
Recent events suggest not as potential applicants such as French Guiana and Zanzibar are not only being discouraged but also punished and the shadow of FIFA’s new president Gianni Infantino hovers over these moves.
At the recent 2017 Gold Cup, French Guiana had a 0-0 draw with Honduras over-turned and the match given as a 3-0 win to their opponents as punishment for playing Florent Malouda, who had previously played for France 80 times but then featured for the land of his birth at the recent Caribbean Cup (below, right).

An undisclosed fine was also levied on the Ligue de Football de Guyane (LFG), who believed that CONCACAF rules that had allowed another former Les Bleus Jocelyn Angloma (below) to play for Guadeloupe in the 2007 Gold Cup after a five-year gap since his last France appearance should stand.
Other examples also exist, such as former Spurs forward Ruel Fox, who played for England B in 1994 then represented Montserrat a decade later when he was the manager of the British overseas territory. 
French territories have also played at previous Gold Cups and Martinique - another French territory also outside of FIFA - was also playing at the 2017 edition.

The decision by CONCACAF’s to start adhering to FIFA rules only now smacks either of muddled thinking - or outside interference from FIFA.
The decision also looks spiteful. On the eve of the Gold Cup, the LFG said it was considering quitting the confederation due to the crusade against the Caribbean nations that make up the bulk of CONCACAF’s members by its North American leadership.
The LFG is considering joining CONMEBOL, which in terms of geography and travel links makes more sense.
The LFG was made a full CONCACAF member in 2013 along with the other French territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saint Martin, by CONCACAF’s then president Jeffrey Webb.
The four French territories seemed set for FIFA membership but this was stopped by both political opposition in Paris and the arrest of Webb for racketeering in May 2015.
The Canadian Victor Montagliani was elected was Webb’s permanent replacement in May 2016. By this time, Infantino had his feet under the president’s desk at FIFA.
Montagliani is considered very much Infantino’s man; so is the new CAF president Ahmad, who in March 2017 ousted long-standing Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Issa Hayatou.
At the same March 2017 assembly that saw his demise, a motion from Hayatou that Zanzibar be prompted from an associate member of CAF to a full member was passed.
In June, Zanzibar reportedly applied to join FIFA but a month later Ahmad, who goes by a single name, over-ruled his own assembly.
Zanzibar’s membership was removed to the disgust of many on the island, which is part of Tanzania but has played independently in African regional competitions such as the CECAFA Cup for three quarters of a century.
Zanzibar also runs its own separate league to Tanzania, enters teams in CAF competitions and had its CAF application approved by Tanzania football federation president Jamal Malinzi. 
So why make the U-turn now?
In July, Ahmad pushed through major changes at CAF such as expanding the African Cup of Nations to 24 teams.
These changes would have needed tacit support from FIFA and Infantino, so perhaps there was a cost?

Admitting Zanzibar (in action against Somalia above) to FIFA would have given CAF as many members as UEFA and led to the inevitable debate over the number of future places at a World Cup.
Sacrificing Zanzibar was easy and the U-turn barely registered outside of the African Island, but like CONCACAF’s move was also muddled and hard to believe.
"CAF cannot admit two different associations from one country," Ahmad told the BBC at the body's extraordinary congress in Morocco. "The definition of a country comes from the African Union and the United Nations," added the Malagasy administrator.
Did CAF’s president really need four months to make himself aware of Article 4 of his own statutes, which state ‘CAF shall recognise only one association per country”?
Those statutes also say that new members can only be admitted and expelled by the general assembly, and mention nothing about the United Nations or African Union.
This year, UEFA made a minor – and largely unnoticed – change to its membership criteria.
Previously, Article 5 said that "membership of UEFA is open to national football associations situated in the continent of Europe, based in a country which is recognised by the United Nations as an independent state, and which are responsible for the organisation and implementation of football-related matters in the territory of their country."
The updated version says that new members must be recognised “as an independent state by the majority of members of the United Nations.”
That minor tweak almost certainly rules out any attempts by the likes of the Channel island of Jersey to join UEFA and justifies the begrudging admission in May 2016 of Kosovo, which was virtually forced on the European body by FIFA during the reign of disgraced former president Sepp Blatter.
So, these federations rendered outcasts in Infantino’s new world order must labour on with little support or development from the bodies supposedly responsible for developing football in these isolated places.
Or from FIFA.
And there’s the rub. Is there perhaps another motive for this hardening stance to potential new members?
To get elected, Infantino pledged to raise FIFA’s Financial Assistance Programme to the world body’s 211 members from U$D1 million every four years to U$D5 million.
Before FIFA’s presidential election, rival candidate Jerome Champagne warned of the potentially catastrophic effect of this move on FIFA’s finances (below).

Champagne was ignored and Infantino won by a landslide as the small, impoverished associations which make up the bulk of FIFA’s membership swung firmly behind the Swiss Italian and his costly FAP offer.
Since then, sponsors for FIFA’s 2018 and 2022 World Cups – the world body’s main earner – have proved slow to emerge when compared to the last tournament in Brazil in 2014.
FIFA is desperate for cash and federations have complained at the speed of money coming through from FIFA’s Forward programme, which replaced the GOAL development scheme.
Maybe other costs are also being cut and FIFA is making sure that no new members emerge from its six confederations to try and claim a their share of the FAP pot?

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