Belfast Telegraph

FA's rebellion means Jim Boyce could be the last British VP at Fifa

By Robert Jones

There may not be another Jim Boyce. The Cliftonville president landed a top job at Fifa last week - but he could well be the last British representative to take up the post.

Boyce became Fifa vice president as football's world governing body maintained it's special relationship with Britain.

However, that unique status is now under serious threat because of the anger that surfaced after the FA attempted - against European body Uefa's advice - to postpone the Fifa election that saw Sepp Blatter extend his reign as president.

Last Wednesday's events at Fifa congress were a proud moment for former IFA president Boyce but there are fears that the automatic British appointment could be scrapped and go to a candidate from Europe.

After FA chairman David Bernstein ignored their recommendations, fuming European federations are expected to push for Uefa to take over the automatic Fifa vice-presidency that has been a British privilege for 63 years.

It is also understood that Uefa's president Michel Platini - who is likely to replace Blatter as head of Fifa in four years' time - shares that view.

A number of associations approached Boyce straight after Bernstein's intervention in Zurich and warned him the British seat has now been weakened. "They said I had a hell of a task," Boyce admitted. "They felt I had a lot to live up to."

It is understood that Boyce, who takes over from the former FA chairman Geoff Thompson, was not consulted prior to Bernstein's intervention.

While he refused to comment on the apparent European backlash, he admitted he had taken over the position at a time when it has never been under greater threat.

"I don't think any British vice-president installed at Fifa has come in under the kind of circumstances that I have," he added. "Some people have asked me what I have let myself in for. There could be repercussions on a lot of fronts but I hope there won't be.

"There have been in the past rumblings about the British privileges and it's an onerous task. But I'll do everything in my power to rebuild the bridges that have been broken.

"Damage has been done but it's not irreparable."

One of Boyce's first tasks will be to seek a meeting with Argentina's Julio Grondona, the most senior Fifa member after Blatter, who attacked England with such venom in Zurich after Bernstein's show of defiance, and was supported by a handful of other speakers from Haiti to Cyprus.

"I'll try and speak to Mr Grondona at the World Cup draw in Rio in July," said Boyce. "I don't know him but I want to speak to him and others who said what they said about England. I don't think his comments should have been made."

Boyce refused to criticise Bernstein's stand and admitted he was surprised that no other federations had the nerve to publicly back him.

Sixteen associations lined up in favour of Bernstein and 17 more abstained. "I was shocked that no one else got up and appeared to support what David said," Boyce said.

The power struggle within Concacaf heightened when the North and Central American federation provisionally banned their acting president, Lisle Austin of Barbados, for allegedly violating rules. He faces a Fifa hearing on July 13. Concacaf did not specify details of the case.

The vice-president, Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, has assumed Austin's role. Austin himself had taken the interim post after long-time president, Jack Warner of Trinidad, was suspended by Fifa.

Fifa are investigating Warner and Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam for allegedly bribing Caribbean voters during Bin Hamman's failed bid for the Fifa presidency. They deny the claims.

Belfast Telegraph


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