In another of his traditional roundtable talks in London on Sunday, 12 September with journalists from major newswires, papers and the electronic media, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter addressed a series of topical issues in world football. Accompanied by FIFA Vice-President David Will, Blatter spoke about the FIFA Club World Championship, explained the approach in view of the organisation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and praised the latest proposals from coaches on how to improve the international match calendar, a major item on the agenda of the upcoming meeting of the FIFA Strategic Studies Committee and the Executive Committee on 5 and 6 October. FIFA.com reports on a frank exchange of opinions where, in line with the FIFA President's philosophy for transparency, no agenda was set and no question was dodged.
On the FIFA Club World Championship and a question as to whether or not the winners of the UEFA Champions League would participate, Blatter stated: "FIFA is taking over the existing contract between CONMEBOL, UEFA and Dentsu, which means that in 2005 and 2006, the UEFA CL winners will participate. FIFA has abandoned the original idea of hosting a Club World Championship with 12 or even 16 teams because it would be very unwise to do so against the background of the international calendar. With the setup approved by the FIFA executive in late February, the Club World Championship will not harm the CONMEBOL and UEFA calendars as the teams from South America and Europe will be away for the same period as for the Toyota Cup, with the sole difference of playing not one but two matches. Besides, the prize money for the FIFA Club World Championship will be higher than at the Toyota Cup."
On the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, MATCH and FIFA's intention to set up an office in South Africa as of early 2005, the FIFA President allayed fears that the world governing football body was thinking that hosts South Africa would not be up to the task: "As it is the FIFA World Cup™, it is FIFA that bears the overall responsibility and the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ will be a milestone in the history of this event. From 2002, we have learnt quite a few important lessons, notably that in several key areas, FIFA must be permanently involved and following up. For this reason, the MATCH company has been created. MATCH means M for Management and Manpower, A for Accommodation, T for Ticketing, C for all computerised infrastructure and solutions and H stands for Hospitality. The FIFA World Cup™ is an ever-more complex event and the South African organisers have asked FIFA for support. In hindsight, we should have already had such an approach for 2002 as such a major undertaking must be closely followed."
Regarding the Olympic Football Tournaments, the FIFA President stressed the benefits of the special spirit that reigns at the Olympic Games: "We must let the young players go to the Olympics, as it is a unique experience for them which will also benefit their club teams. The format of the Men's Olympic Football Tournament is to remain the same with three overage players, whereas for the women's tournament we have the consent of the IOC that in 2008 there will be 12 teams competing."
International Match Calendar and eligibility
On the international match calendar, Blatter praised Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's latest proposals regarding dates for international qualifiers: "I am grateful that Arsene Wenger proactively looks at these issues and comes forward with proposals. For various reasons, I prefer the Wednesday / Saturday proposal to the one where two international dates would be on Friday and Tuesday. This is because in many countries it is not convenient to play on Friday or in the evening. The matter is part of the overall discussion on international matches at the upcoming meetings of the Strategic Studies Committee and the Executive Committee."
Regarding UEFA's plans to limit the number of players to 25 per squad and to impose a quota of home-bred players, Blatter warmly welcomed this initiative: "This has already been debated at the meeting of the association presidents and general secretaries in Lisbon in summer this year. I would even go further as I, as well as UEFA, have outlined in the past with my proposal of "6 + 5" (line-up including six players eligible to play in the national team of the country where the club is domiciled). We must protect grass-roots football and the clubs who train players and bring them up."
With respect to the latest criticism levelled at referees over sending off players for excessive celebrations, the FIFA President advocated an approach that takes into consideration various circumstances for the referee to make his judgement in line with the Laws of the Game.
On referee Halsey rethinking his decision in the Fulham v. Arsenal league game on 11 September and not awarding a penalty, both the FIFA President and FIFA Vice-President David Will stated that it was perfectly fine for the match official to reverse his decision: "As long as the game has not restarted, the referee can indeed consult his assistants who may provide him with additional information and reverse his original decision. However, he should not be persuaded by the players to change a decision, only by his assistants."
The FIFA President reiterated that the future of the game was in the hands of the referees: "There must be professional referees in professional leagues. Referees in general must be knowledgeable about the game. The psychology of refereeing is linked to the psychology of the game and they need a certain feeling for that."
Asked about his opinion on the recent media blackout imposed by the England national team players after their World Cup qualifier against Poland, the FIFA President pleaded for fair play on both sides: "In today's communication-driven world, a media blackout is not the right approach. Players should communicate, especially those from major footballing countries such as England, France, Germany or Brazil, because they are public personalities. However, there must be understanding and respect on both sides."
On the topic of the current situation of the Football Association, Blatter pointed out that it was an internal matter. "The FA is the oldest association in the world and I hope that it will be able to solve its problems. FIFA will not interfere, but if we are asked for assistance, we will certainly help."