Turbulent road to election of Polish Football Association chairman


By Stine Alvad
Yesterday an independent election committee elected the new chairman of the Polish Football Association PZPN. The election followed a turbulent month of battles between FIFA, UEFA and the Polish government, threats of disqualification and corruption charges in the Polish world of football.

The new chairman is the former footballer and senator, Grzegorz Lato, who will replace Michel Listkiewicz after his nine years of presidency. The Polish government has on several occasions proved its discontent with Listkiewizc’s efforts to fight the extensive corruption in Polish football.

More than 150 players, referees, coaches and officials are accused of match-fixing and corruption. Latest action in the three year long case is the arrest of former Polish national coach Janusz Wojcik and PZPN secretary General Zdzislaw Krecina. Krecina was one of the four candidates for the PZPN chairman post.

FIFA is watching
Poland is under tough surveillance from both FIFA and UEFA due to Poland’s and Ukraine’s co-hosting of the EURO2012. Both countries have been given several warnings, and FIFA has made it clear that they will be strict about the bidding countries living up to the UEFA specifications.

In spite of this augmented pressure of the Polish handling of football related issues, Drzewiecki chose to suspend Listkiewicz in September this year, knowing that FIFA does not accept any governmental interference in the affairs of national football associations.

This is a fact that FIFA has already proved to Poland. In January 2007 the former sports minister suspended Listkiewicz, but the suspension was not recognized by FIFA and Listkiewicz was quickly reinstated.
Drzewiecki was aware of this, but the suspension last month was backed by Polish prime minister Donald Tusk,  and the procurer had been chosen by the Arbitration Court tribunal of the Polish National Olympic Committee. The suspension seemed to be well accepted by official side. But not by FIFA.

FIFA’s ultimatum
FIFA and UEFA gave Poland a three-day ultimatum they could not ignore. Poland was to re-instate Listkiewicz as chairman of the PZPN immediately, failing to do so would result in an annulment of two national world cup qualification matches to be played the next week and maybe even a loss of the co-hosting right.

Listkiewicz was reinstated and all parties agreed that an independent election committee, consisting of members from the Polish government, the PZPN, FIFA and UEFA, was to choose the new chairman. The election took place yesterday.

The future of PZPN
"I am determined to change the image of Polish football, to make it transparent and pure and for this to culminate in the success of Euro 2012”, new chairman Lato said after the election, according to AFP.

But Lato has already been subject of criticism and doubts as to whether he will be able to clear Polish football of corruption. Monsters and Critics, online news site, reports that especially members of the Polish government are sceptic of Leto’s abilities. According to Monsters and Critics, the interior minister calls Leto a ”step backwards” for the federation.

PZPN is not the only party that has suffered from these events. The Polish government also needs to take the recent events into consideration. National papers called the agreement a defeat for the government. A poll taken by national newspaper Dziennik showed that 65% think that the government should have sacrificed the World Cup qualification games and stood up against FIFA that way. And almost 40 % thinks that Minister of Sport Drzewiecki should resign as a consequence. 

Related links:

FIFA’s ultimatum note

FIFA and UEFA’s statement on Poland

Poland sets fighting corruption higher than football interests, Play the Game

Grzegorz Lato elected head of troubled Polish FA, AFP

New Polish football boss faces criticism, eyes new Euro 2012 co-host, Monsters and Critics


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