The U.S. Soccer Federation president will take on a new role after being elected to the exclusive club known as the FIFA Executive Committee.Sunil Gulati has never been one for vocal platitudes during his seven-year tenure as head of U.S. Soccer, so don't expect many changes now that he's on the FIFA Executive Committee.
Discussing his new role with reporters on a conference call, there were no long-winded promises about changing the corrupt culture of FIFA or bringing CONCACAF to a new era. Rather, Gulati provided some brief insight on the current affairs of his region and his long-standing goal of bringing another World Cup to the United States. Safe to say, a better understanding of Gulati's influence and impact will happen over the next four years on the job.
Here are five points from Gulati's conference call:
It's clear that Gulati wants reform and transparency in FIFA but wasn't direct on how
Corruption continues to plague FIFA's reputation, something Gulati acknowledged but was politically correct about how he expects to bring improvement in that area.
"I think the reforms that have been achieved in the first part, which happened last May were a very good first step," Gulati explained. "Hopefully there will be another good step this May with a number of other things that will be implemented and President Blatter at the CONCACAF Congress alluded to a third part of the process. So it could be that some of the things that don’t happen in May of this year are rolled over and looked at again a year from now."
Gulati was very non-specific on what changes he expects but admitted that there are a few challenges from his end. One challenge in particular was the view of the United States being an outsider in the world of soccer. Due to the ethics and laws in America, the country has a very different business culture than some of its counterparts.
"There are a number of areas where the U.S. is different and other countries are quite different," Gulati stated.
Job-related expenses were another area where Gulati could have taken more of a definitive stance but decided against it. The 53-year-old stated he would have no problem in revealing his own expenditures but only if it wasn't against FIFA's current policy.
Gulati explained: "The answer would be yes, with a caveat. I don’t know what [the compensation] is today, to be frank. I’ve read things online, but I’ve never been told definitively what that is. The second is if I’m bound by a confidentiality agreement with FIFA. That would then be difficult, but I don’t know that I’m going to be. I don’t know what the rules of the road are there, but in the absence of that, it’s my belief that FIFA should, in fact, disclose the compensation of directors. I would have no problem of disclosing if it’s not a violation of any provision with FIFA for directors."
In short, don't hold your breath. It's FIFA after all.
Having CONCACAF. host a World Cup is a priority
The second most popular subject on the call dealt with Gulati's ambition to see the World Cup return to the region. After controversial circumstances saw Qatar defeat the United States in the 2022 World Cup bid, Gulati remains committed to bringing back the World Cup in 2026.
"Look, we've made it clear in the past that we think hosting a World Cup in the United States would be a positive," Gulati said.
"[CONCACAF president] Jeff Webb, in his president comments at the [Confederation's] Congress on Friday, made it very clear that it's one of his priorities and requests of [FIFA president Sepp] Blatter and of FIFA is that the 2026 World Cup come to CONCACAF. That's certainly is something we'd be targeting in the future."
Gulati would like to see four teams from CONCACAF in future World Cups
“Is there a push for that? The answer is yes. We’ve made that very clear," Gulati said on the possibility of four, rather than three-and-a-half World Cup spots coming from CONCACAF.
While it wouldn't go towards next year's World Cup, Gulati hopes to see it applied toward either the 2018 or the 2022 tournament. It all comes down how CONCACAF teams perform in next year's event. If all the region's teams are competitive and perform up to or better than expectations, then Gulati has a platform to build on.
"If our teams are successful, that increases the likelihood of that happening," Gulati said.
Gulati wants to forge a stronger relationship with CONCACAF's non-English speaking countries
The election vote tally of 20-19 proves that Gulati was not the overwhelming favorite over his opposition Justino Compeán. CONCACAF's English-speaking countries pushed Gulati ahead but now he has to win over the rest of region in order to get important initiatives through, especially Compeán's Mexico. Considering Mexico's success on all levels over the past three years, Gulati will need the country's backing to be effective in his role.
Gulati also dismissed that Chuck Blazer's current scandal had any effect on the voting process.
“I can’t speak to what individual members were feeling about two years ago," Gulati said. "Obviously most of the Caribbean members voted for me so I don’t know if two or three more would’ve voted for me with the absence of that issue or that concern. It’s impossible to know.”
Gulati's role at U.S. Soccer won't be affected
According to a U.S. soccer representative, Gulati's new position at FIFA shouldn't affect his current role at the USSF. He will have additional duties but it shouldn't conflict with his responsibilities as head of U.S. Soccer.
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