(Weird) Politics as Usual

Governance organizations often behave in strange ways even when they are not “governments” in the common usage of the term. In the past, I’ve written the internal politics of the MLB Players Association and its inactivity regarding the steroid problem, even though it is the most obvious source to instigate governance of the issue. Let me be very clear, non-governmental governance groups are much less powerful and dangerous than their cousins who have the power to kill, imprison, and motivate by force. However, influences on decision making (interest groups, voting problems, agency issues, …) are all part of politics in organizations outside of “governments.”

One aspect of politics is that it sometimes generates decisions that are just plain difficult to rationalize. A recent example and the motivation behind this piece is soccer’s governing body, FIFA, and its stance on players “diving” to draw penalties (one of the real blights on soccer in my opinion). A brief summary of issue appears on ESPN Soccernet. The English governing body (the FA) petitioned FIFA to permit it to use post-game video evidence to punish divers.

FIFA respondy by saying

According to the FIFA disciplinary code, although a disciplinary committee may rectify serious and obviously incorrect decisions taken by a referee, particularly regarding disciplinary sanctions, a referee’s discretionary decision cannot be classed as such. ‘In general, factual decisions taken by the referee cannot be overruled.’ FIFA point out that rules to punish diving, or simulation as it is also known, are already in the laws of the game, and referees should caution any players they believe have dived. The statement added that before the 2002 World Cup referees were ordered to crack down on diving, and the same instruction will be given to referees before this year’s finals.

As usual, FIFA’s decisions make about as much sense as the U.N. — it’s mirror image. I can’t come up with a clear reason why video evidence regarding such matters would be abhorrent. It would not change referee decisions or undermine their authority regarding the match itself — only penalties imposed on players in future matches and, thereby, provide an important deterrrent. Further, as a relatively late-comer to the world of soccer, it’s strange to me how FIFA became so powerful that country-level governance bodies even bother to ask it about in-country issues. It would be equivalent to the U.S. asking the UN if we can have trial-by-juries. I’m left with little but my title as a response — weird!

Just an aside, I would note that how strangely similar the FIFA powermongers are to European Union bureaucrats, European UN officials, the UEFA leadership, and key IOC officials. It’s like when Diana Ross and Michael Jackson pictures flash on screen — I have to do a double take.

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Author: Brian Goff

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