JAMES SHIELD: Let’s play a game of spot the difference

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FIFA, so we are told, doesn’t do government interference.

The French were threatened with draconian sanctions when politicians expressed their intention to investigate Les Bleus’ shambolic showing at South Africa 2010.

Likewise Nigeria after they dispensed with the services of key decision makers at the NFF following another round of infighting at its Abuja HQ.

So it was no surprise to learn that rumblings of discontent could also be heard emanating from Sepp Blatter and his cohorts when those right honourable ladies and gentleman at the Palace of Westminster formed a committee, albeit apparently benign, designed to examine the state of our national game.

One of David Cameron’s ministers, Hugh Robertson, described it as “the worst governed sport in the country.”

“The levels of corporate governance that apply to football, a point often addressed by Labour, lag far behind other sports and other sports are by no means beacons in this regard,” he said.

For fear of sounding sociological, this separation of powers is crucially important. Albeit that some of the tax arrangements required to stage the World Cup certainly seem worthy of further scrutiny.

(Given the sectarianism which still surrounds Old Firm games, not to mention claims about spikes in domestic violence levels whenever Rangers and Celtic meet, Holyrood’s analysis of this tinderbox of a fixture seems a notable exception).

Scroll forward, though, a few of weeks and what response when Saudi Arabia responded to their dismal performance at the recent Asian Cup, being held in Qatar, by sacking two coaches and the president of their footballing federation?


Strange given that the man responsible for wielding the axe was none other than the King.

Who, just in case there was any confusion, happens to rule the Middle Eastern country.

FIFA, given that they have asked Qatar to host the greatest show on earth in 11 years time, are surely aware of this discrepancy.

After all, it was widely reported by the media. Including several respected newspapers, magazines and journals published in the Middle East.

So what could apparently have persuaded FIFA that the same rules used to bludgeon France, England and our cousins in Africa do not apply in this cash rich, marketing man’s dream of a region?

Answers on a postcard please. Because Talking Sport is absolutely stumped.