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Political Football

A candidate for change: Is FIFA hopeful Grant Wahl for real?

FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter is running for re-election yet again this year but he’s facing an unlikely challenge from a journalist speaking a strong message. Emmet Ryan looks into the intriguing candidacy of Grant Wahl.

GRANT WAHL IS not your traditional candidate for the presidency of the governing body of world football.

To the best of our knowledge he has never been president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders; based on Sepp Blatter’s resume, that’s an absolute must.

No, instead Wahl aims to become the first American to hold the title in an effort to clean up the body that administrates the biggest sport on the planet. A journalist with Sports Illustrated, Wahl shot to fame with his book The Beckham Experiment, written during a period when he split duties between covering basketball and football (or soccer as it is referred to Stateside).

After moving into a dedicated role covering the beautiful game, Wahl has become a more active voice calling for change in how the game is run. Lots of journalists and bloggers have done the same but the difference with Wahl is, he is going all-out to back up his words with actions, as can be seen in this campaign video.

It’s quite the ambitious plan. The link to the video is here but here’s some of what Wahl wants to do:

  • Introduce video replays.
  • Appoint a woman as general secretary to combat the lack of representation in the FIFA executive
  • Have no limits on how many referees a country can send to the World Cup and require greater vetting and review of their decisions.
  • Go Wikileaks on FIFA and make all of its internal documents available to the public.
  • Limit FIFA presidents to a maximum of two 4-year terms.

All noble stuff. While the vetting of referees seems a little less important than the other matters, American fans are still bitter over the choice of official for their game against Slovenia in the World Cup, the general plan means more openness and an effort to give people who care about football a fairer deal. Transparency International would explode with glee if Wahl somehow won.

Getting on the ballot would be an achievement in itself

To make it into the race, Wahl is going to have to find a member association that’s will to cross both Blatter and his main opponent, Mohamed Bin Hammam, to nominate Wahl for the role of president. Even a brave association with popular local support would be hard pushed to take such a risk, so you can forget about the FAI leading the charge.

Even if he somehow convinces one association to put his name in, winning will be near impossible as the vested interests that run the game, the ones Wahl wants to expose and run out of town, would have little motivation to support him against the two more traditional candidates. Still, that’s no reason not to do all we can to help.

Get involved

Wahl has stated that if, somehow, he wins then he will take office and serve. That’s good enough for us to throw our support behind him. There’s a Twitition already up and running to gather support for the campaign and you can vote in an online poll pitting Wahl against the two already announced candidates.

Emmet Ryan writes about sport at Action81, where this post first appeared.