FIFA's Blatter dishes on the state of the game

FIFA President Joseph S Blatter recently sat down to chat with Keir Radnedge of World Soccer about the future of the game [extracts]:

What is the most important issue facing FIFA? Social responsibility. Throughout the world, football has become such an important phenomenon that we need to demonstrate our sense of responsibility towards society at large. That starts with players and includes clubs, leagues, referees, national associations and continental confederations, who work on behalf of football and on behalf of the important role it plays now in the world.

What are the other key issues at the moment? An issue of utmost importance for me is that we continue training our referees. We have invested $14 million in referee-training programs over the next four years. The pressure on referees is increasing all the time, and we need to make sure that they are up to standard. We are on the same track here as UEFA, which is interested in seeing if it can help with a system of four assistant referees instead of three. We have tested the system here in Zurich to see if this is something which, in the future, can help the referee exercise better match control.

What about violence in soccer? First of all, this is a reflection of the violence in society at large. Football is sometimes in danger of being taken hostage by this violence. However, we are also aware of our responsibilities and we have to do all we can to ensure safety and security even if, above all, this is a responsibility of government. But there are lessons we can learn about the safety and comfort of stadia. In the United Kingdom, which used to be the home of hooliganism, they showed that the use of all-seater stadia means you can reduce hooligan violence to almost nothing. So in this way we can show that football knows it can live up to its responsibility, as does society at large.

When you became president, FIFA had a deficit of $12.2 million; now it is $614 million in credit. Why does FIFA need so much in the bank? Five years ago many people criticized FIFA for bad financial behavior and now we are criticized for having too much money. But we have to have enough reserves to protect us just in case something goes wrong -- for example, with a World Cup. Also, people often overlook the fact that we distribute 70 percent of our revenues to the national associations through our various assistance programs.

How has football changed during your term as president, and how have you changed? Football has changed immensely in becoming an economic power, though this has a downside because in many leagues too many teams have as their ambition not winning titles but merely avoiding relegation. What has not changed enough is that there is still too much amateurism in football administration. How have I changed? That is really up to other people to say but I don't think I have changed much. When I played football I was a No. 9, an attacker, and sometimes I was seen more in a game and sometimes less. I think it's still the same.

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