England unsuccessfully bid to host the 2018 World Cupjohnthescone

As World Cup qualifying draws to a close and the eyes of the world turn to Russia, and in an age where leaving distant supranational bodies is the new norm, it might be helpful to consider another Brexit: leaving the fundamentally corrupt and irreparable disgrace of an association that calls itself FIFA.

The corruption endemic at the heart of the international game is evident for everybody to see, and barely needs repeating. But if only for the sake of reiteration, it is worth remembering the simple but crucial fact that FIFA somehow managed to award Russia and Qatar with the privilege of hosting World Cups. Russia – the country crippled by violent racism and a hotbed for extreme hooliganism, vastly outdoing the thuggery which saw English clubs banned from European competition in the 1980s – and Qatar – an undemocratic theocracy in which human rights are simply disregarded and which is using slave labour to build the currently non-existent stadia.

The very fact that these countries are hosting the World Cup is, in itself, bad enough. Yet what makes it even worse is the corruption that lead to this morally indefensible outcome. We should never forget that the snubbing of England as host for the 2018 World Cup – the country which founded the game and whose infrastructure is already uniquely placed to host international tournaments – was nothing short of a national humiliation.

Remember the sense of hype and optimism which preceded the fixed announcement? Remember the “three lions” – David Cameron, the Duke of Cambridge and David Beckham – personally flying to Zurich to lobby the FIFA board members who had clearly already been bribed? Remember Vladimir Putin – already aware of the result no doubt – not even bothering to show up to the grand reveal, and the feigned, unconvincing look of surprise on the faces of Sepp Blatter and the Qatari Royal Family?

David Beckham, along with David Cameron and Prince William were representatives for England's World Cup bidl3o_

The contemptuous manner in which the intrinsically flawed and scandalous FIFA treated England – and all the traditionally footballing countries, preferring to place themselves on bended knees to the oligarchs – is simply unforgivable. And there is no genuine hope of reform – FIFA’s standard response to any allegations of corruption continues to be “not proven.”

Even those dramatic scenes we witnessed of the FBI storming FIFA’s Zurich offices in 2015 have failed to rattle the body into order: though Sepp Blatter may – finally – have gone, his successor, Giovanni Infantino, seems to be carrying on his corrupt legacy, already being implicated in a whole range of questionable practises, ranging from his personal implication in the ‘Panama Papers’, to the illegitimate spending of FIFA funds within his first few months in office.

The only way to change the international game for the better is therefore to leave this decrepid, failed and disgraced body. And, if other European and global footballing nations join us in this noble endeavour, the means to do it is simple. As in excess of 85% of FIFA’s income depends on the World Cup, and associated sponsorship rights and TV deals, you simply withdraw those nations from which the majority of this funding stems.

A World Cup without the likes of England, Germany, Spain and France would not be much of a World Cup in footballing terms, but, more importantly for FIFA, would represent an existential financial crisis. Add into the mix the United States (who is already boycotting FIFA to a lesser degree by refusing to bid for anymore World Cups until it fundamentally reforms), Japan, Australia and many other sceptical nations around the world, and the organisation is confined to the dustbin of history.

Eastern European, African and Arab oligarchs may line the pockets of FIFA officials, but they cannot fund the organisation itself without the massive influence and income-stream provided by the European nations and their commercial-value. So let us make this Brexit one which the whole of Europe can unite around.

A Brexit which sees us ‘take back control’ of the international game from the hands of an immoral, disgraced and corrupt organisation, which no longer legitimately represents any football fan, and which sees us set up a positive alternative: an ethical, fan-orientated body which has at its heart the simple, innocent desire to put on footballing spectacles, perhaps overseen by an international adjudicator to avoid the descent into scandal we have seen FIFA crippled by.

The impropriety which has come to characterise FIFA means that any country wishing to leave will undoubtedly have popular support, moral legitimacy and – hopefully – wide international backing; if only they have the courage to do it. Let England be the first to take a principled stand and lead the way in restoring the game to its proper footing. After all, it is only right that the home of football should initiate its rebirth

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