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Blatter’s stain on game proving very lame

by Jack Gallagher

“Blatter is a dead man walking … “

That is how the email I received from investigative journalist Andrew Jennings began back in July. This was days before the award-winning author was set to testify before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on corruption in international soccer.

Jennings, best known for “The Lords of the Rings” about graft within the IOC, has maintained a friendly relationship with The Japan Times for the past few years. His tireless work on FIFA corruption has pushed Blatter to the precipice.

In the wake of Friday’s bombshell — that FIFA president Sepp Blatter was the focus of a criminal investigation by Swiss authorities — it appears that the latest book penned by Jennings could not have arrived at a more appropriate time.

“The Dirty Game: Uncovering the Scandal at FIFA” hit the market earlier this month and follows up on his first work about soccer’s world governing body “Foul!: The Secret World of Fifa: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals,” which was published in 2008.

The classic note about Jennings’ first book on FIFA is that on the jacket cover there is a quote from none other than Blatter, denouncing the author:

‘You write fiction’ Sepp Blatter, FIFA President

Brilliant.

The arrest of several FIFA officials on corruption charges in May wasn’t enough for Blatter to step aside. No, not only did he not quit, he stood for and was re-elected again by the group’s member nations just days later.

It was an absolute disgrace.

Just to pacify those questioning his leadership, the Swiss made an unenforceable promise that he would step down after a special election next February. That’s right, he was trying to squeeze nearly another entire year of his tenure.

It was a classic grandstand move by a narcissistic leader. The temerity of some people never ceases to amaze me, but this guy is something else.

It seems the 79-year-old Blatter won’t be satisfied until he is taken away in handcuffs. Which may be exactly what happens.

The latest allegations are just more fuel on the fire, and a further signal that Blatter must be removed at the earliest possible date even though he vowed on Monday not to quit.

The charges of impropriety — “criminal mismanagement and criminal misappropriation” — against Blatter have also ensnared UEFA president Michel Platini, who was considered a likely successor to Blatter. It seems that the Frenchman received a $2 million payment from FIFA back in 2011 shortly before dropping out of an election in which he was to challenge Blatter for the presidency.

Platini tried to explain away the payment on Friday by saying it was for earlier work he had done for FIFA.

How much earlier?

Try nine years.

Give me a break.

Have you ever been paid for work you did nine years later?

Yeah, me neither.

Who do these guys think they are fooling?

The sad part is that Blatter was backed in the most recent election by the Japan Football Association and many other federations. It was absolutely pathetic. It’s as if nobody has the guts to stand up to this guy.

But this has to be the end. Not in February — now.

I think FIFA should be taken over by somebody who is not currently involved with the game at any level. The only way the house is ever going to be swept clean is to get somebody in there who isn’t beholden to any group or individual.

It should get an executive from another sport, with no ties to soccer.

Good move: By World Rugby officials to set the 2019 Rugby World Cup final for International Stadium Yokohama. Notes on a Scorecard suggested this move back in July in the wake of misguided cancellation of the new Olympic Stadium in Tokyo by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

With Japan’s epic victory over South Africa in its first game of the current World Cup, rugby officials can breathe easier now that they know they will have a viable venue for their showcase event and a home team that may be competitive.

Now if the Tokyo 2020 people would come to their senses and abandon a plan to build a scaled-down version of the originally planned Olympic Stadium and make International Stadium Yokohama the site for the athletics and Opening and Closing Ceremonies, everything would be copacetic.

Every time I think about the ongoing Olympic Stadium fiasco, I keep reflecting on how long it took to build the new Wembley Stadium, which got bogged down in financial and legal issues.

The last event held at the “old Wembley” was a friendly international between England and Germany. That was on Oct. 7, 2000. The original plan was for demolition to begin around Christmas of that year and for the new stadium to be finished sometime in 2003.

One thing led to another and the scrapping of the stadium didn’t begin until September 2002, nearly two years behind schedule. The new stadium was then not completed until March 2007, some 4½ years later.

By the way, the original cost of the new Wembley was £485 million when it was first proposed. The final price tag was £798 million.

So this belief that there is suddenly going to be a great savings by coming up with a new and cheaper design for Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium is just fantasy.

With just 4 years and 10 months to go until the 2020 Tokyo Games begin, you can see by looking at the Wembley timeline that it will be tough to even finish a new Olympic Stadium in time.

The primary difference here is that when the new Wembley Stadium was finally done it was one of the top facilities in the world. That won’t be the case in Tokyo under the current scenario.

One of the biggest and most affluent cities in the world will be left with a second-rate venue, which is pointless.

I say end the nonsense and make International Stadium Yokohama the primary stadium for Tokyo 2020.

If it is good enough to host soccer’s World Cup final (which it did in 2002) and the Rugby World Cup final, then it can certainly do the same for the Olympics.