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Europe To Boycott World Cup, Santa Claus To Cancel Christmas

Only a united UEFA has the power to bring about change within Sepp Blatter’s FIFA, but it’ll never happen.

Following the debacle of FIFA clearing FIFA of any wrong-doing in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups - and the governing body’s continued insistence that the investigative report not be made public (despite the report’s author, Michael Garcia, declaring FIFA’s summary judgement “misleading”) - calls have been made for UEFA to boycott the forthcoming World Cups in Russia and Qatar.

To put that in perspective, we’re talking about a World Cup without, among others, Spain, Holland, France, Italy, England, Portugal and current champions Germany. In other words, the winners of seven of the last ten World Cups wouldn’t take to the field in Russia.

Calls for a boycott have, to date, come from within England and Germany. Former FA Chairman and FIFA committee member David Bernstein told the BBC that "you can't hold a serious World Cup without them (UEFA). They have the power to influence if they have the will." Similarly, President of the German Bundesliga Dr. Reinhard Rauball has said that if FIFA doesn’t implement radical reform, “one option that would have to bear serious consideration is certainly that UEFA leaves FIFA”.

While The18 is all for sticking it to FIFA and Sepp Blatter, there’s just one problem with this plan: it’ll never happen. While both Bernstein and Rauball have influence within their respective countries, neither has any sway within UEFA. And, considering the mountains of cash that the major nations would have to forgo if they were to boycott a World Cup, it will take Bilderberg levels of influence to pull off a Europe-wide sit-out.

A country such as England or Germany would expect to make roughly $50M in prize money alone from a World Cup finals, not to mention the revenue generated from gate receipts and TV rights for the qualifying matches in the preceding two years (about $100M). Boycotting countries would also be  giving up the sponsorship revenue and shirt sales generated by a run to the world’s biggest single-sport tournament.

$100M here, another $50M there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real sums of money. That magnitude of potential loss means no single country would dare boycott the World Cup, and it’s unlikely that a single country’s stance would have much impact on FIFA anyway. So unless the countries of UEFA have the collective balls to unite against FIFA, to stare them down and call their bluff, grandiose recommendations of boycotts will remain just that.

What the football world needs right now is a figurehead with the clout and influence to take on Blatter and FIFA’s vested interests: a man whose words carry weight; who has the power to unite football’s most influential bloc and hit FIFA where it hurts, the wallet.

Only the head of UEFA can genuinely scare Sepp Blatter and FIFA, because only a united UEFA has the capacity to hold a World Cup to ransom and convince sponsors like Coca Cola and McDonalds to question their lucrative deals.

The stage is set for UEFA President Michel Platini to do something, but we won’t be holding our breath. He stated in October that he wanted the Garcia report to be published, but hasn’t said a word since. Back in June, he said he opposed Blatter’s decision to stand for re-election as president of FIFA, but come August he declined the opportunity to run against the Swede himself.

To date, Platini has demonstrated a great capacity for talking the talk. For the sake of the beautiful game, it’s about time he backed up those words with some footsteps. 

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