Shortly after the Department of Justice's press conference enumerating the charges against FIFA officials, UEFA, European soccer's governing body, issued a dire statement reading, in part, "The upcoming FIFA Congress risks to turn into a farce and therefore the European associations will have to consider carefully if they should even attend this Congress and caution a system, which, if it is not stopped, will ultimately kill football."
UEFA member nations will meet on Thursday to discuss matters further, but one of the proposed actions is boycotting the upcoming FIFA Congress. This would have wide-ranging implications, not just on the FIFA presidential elections, but also on one of its own members: Israel.
One of the items on the agenda for the upcoming FIFA Congress is the suspension of Israel, as put forth by the Palestine Football Association. As VICE Sports reported last week:
"The charges against Israel go far beyond the shooting of the two footballers. Israel is accused of violating several statutes of the FIFA charter covering a variety of issues, but all fundamentally tied to its occupation of the West Bank."
The PFA has remained steadfast in their refusal to remove the item from the agenda unless their demands are met. Thus far, Israel has refused to refused to meet them.
With all indications that the proposal is headed to a vote, UEFA's absence could change the tide and potentially lead to a vote to suspend Israel. According to FIFA Statutes, more than half of FIFA's 208 members must vote, and two-thirds of the votes must be in favor of the resolution for it to pass. If all of UEFA's 56 members boycotted the Congress, there would still be 152 members present; plenty of delegates necessary for the vote to remain legitimate.
More importantly, some of Israel's most steadfast allies are UEFA members. Last week, a former Israel Football Association senior official told VICE Sports, "It's true that 80 percent of Africa and Asia might not support Israel in the vote, but I can tell you that 80 percent of the rest of the world will." In particular, Belgium and Germany are known to be two of Israel's staunchest supporters.
In some way, Blatter may be rooting for a UEFA boycott. Blatter has been vocal in his desire to avoid a vote, but with the new criminal charges against FIFA officials, Blatter might see the PFA resolution as a potential distraction from the corruption news. If UEFA is going to boycott the Congress, why not sacrifice one of its members to draw attention away from the bad press?
Although it's widely believed Blatter will win the presidential race against Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, UEFA members represent his most vocal opponents. With them out of the picture, Blatter is guaranteed to be re-elected.
A UEFA boycott probably won't happen, mostly because it makes no sense to do so. They'll be potentially sacrificing one of their own members and assuring the incumbent gets re-elected. Blatter would be happy to call this bluff, and even happier if UEFA isn't bluffing at all.