It’s Leap Day…

And a Happy Leap Day to all…

FIFA has elected a new President – to replace Sepp Blatter who has resigned and has subsequently been banned from any soccer related activities for a bunch of years. I do not want anyone to get the impression that I believe that Blatter was the one who “invented” corruption and bribery as a way of life in FIFA; I do mean to intimate that he and a few of his cronies seem to have raised bribery and corruption to an art form. In any event, the new FIFA President will be Gianni Infantino. So the question would seem to be this:

    Has FIFA “turned the corner”/”turned over a new leaf”/”decided to go in a different direction” as a result of this change of leadership?

Frankly, I think the answer is a very direct and disconcerting one:

    We do not have enough information to make a rational judgment yet. We might wish for a better form of sports governance here, but we just do not know yet.

Infantino won on the second ballot at a FIFA convocation because no candidate got the required two-thirds of the votes cast on the first ballot. Among a few other things, here is what Infantino said during his campaign for the presidency he would want to do with FIFA as its leader:

    Expand the World Cup tournament from 32 teams to 40 teams: I am ambivalent about this idea for the simple reason that it is hugely unlikely that any of the teams added to the tournament – the “33rd through 40th best teams” – is actually going to make any difference in who the ultimate winner might be. On the other hand, more teams/players get to participate…

    Will push for term limits on FIFA Presidents: Presidential terms are 4 years; Infantino wants to limit anyone to 3 terms in office. If he can get this proposal through the byzantine rule-making processes of FIFA, it would probably be a good thing.

    Will publish the salaries of all FIFA executives: Given the squalid financial history of FIFA and its execs/cronies, anything that even hints at transparency has to be a big plus. Can he actually accomplish this? We will know rather shortly…

Infantino also wants to distribute more revenues to the member states. He says that the way he will do that in a fiscally responsible manner is that he will grow the revenue coming into the organization. He cites his successes in doing this for European soccer. If he can grow the revenue, then sending more of it to the individual national organizations is a good idea – – so long as there is some mechanism to assure that the national organizations are using the added monies to grow the game in their home countries instead of pocketing the money for themselves. Why would I think such a dark thought here? After all, those national organization officials are all ones who have aspired to be FIFA HQS execs someday – – with all of the pork and under-the-table bennies that came with such positions for a long period of time…

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald has this note in his blog last weekend; it will give you an idea of the current into which Gianni Infantino swims:

“SOCCER: Corruption-plagued FIFA selects a new president: Gianni Infantino, a 45-year-old Swiss-Italian lawyer, was elected on the second ballot this week to succeed disgraced and ousted Sepp Blatter. Infantino immediately thanked all of the voters who’d accepted his bribes. Oh I’m just kidding! Probably.”

A report in the LA Times late last week said that the San Diego Chargers were seeking a new stadium in San Diego in the downtown area. The paper reported this with a straight face and in a serious tone; it quoted a spokesthing for the Chargers:

“We believe that a downtown multi-use facility will attract broad support from throughout our entire community,”

Pardon me while I yawn here. The Chargers have been seeking a new stadium in San Diego for at least 10 years now and any time the local politicians even hint that they might be interested in doing a deal, the politicians want the stadium to be in a geographical area that is near the current stadium and not in downtown. This position by the Chargers and this position by the local pols is not new and therefore is not news. Here is something about as close to a “litmus test” as one might get with regard to this situation:

    A “downtown site” would require a tax increase and local ordinances require tax increases of this sort/magnitude to be approved in a referendum by two-thirds of the votes cast.

    That is a high hurdle indeed – but the Chargers want it on the ballot in November.

    Good luck to the Chargers on that front.

    Not to worry though, the team has until about Feb 2017 to decide if it will join with Stan Kronke as the “junior partners”/”tenants” in Kronke’s mega-stadium in LA.

Not to pour cold water on the Chargers hopes here but this is what the Mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, had to say about a downtown venue:

“Most experts we’ve talked to have concluded that building a stadium downtown — on land not owned by either the city or the Chargers — would increase costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and take years longer to complete.”

I never pretend to be a “political pundit” here, but that statement does not indicate to me that the mayor and “his people” will be energetically pushing for that funding referendum come November…

Finally, here is another comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald relative to a story that commanded too much attention last week:

“Cleveland star Kyrie Irving bitten by bed bugs: Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving was bitten by five bed bugs while staying at a posh Hilton hotel. Hilton apologized and immediately instituted a new policy that stringently places a three bed-bug maximum in all of its rooms worldwide.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………