Northern Irishman Jim Boyce has come along way from Chairman of Cliftonville to FIFA Vice-President. With FIFA and corruption now synonymous, how has Boyce fared?
So who is Jim Boyce? Now 70 years old, Boyce’s first foray in football was aged 7, as a ball boy for his local team Cliftonville. He remained connected with the club as he grew up and eventually became Chairman of the club, overseeing their first Irish League title for 70 years. In 1995 Boyce was nominated to head up the IFA (the Northern Irish FA).
Jim Boyce is a fortunate beneficiary of history. The IFA are a tiny Football Association in the grand scheme of world football, so how did Boyce go from overseeing 960 registered clubs spread over just 5,500 square miles to one of 8 FIFA Vice Presidents? British FAs have always been over-represented in FIFA’s higher echelons. As founders of the game they are viewed as its spiritual guardians.
Five of the six football confederations are granted just one Vice President each to represent the interests of all the National FAs within their organisations. UEFA are granted a second VP, given their clout in world football. Curiously though, as founders and guardians of football the British FAs of Northern Ireland, Scotland Wales and England are collectively granted one representative for themselves, despite already having two representatives as part of UEFA.
Because of this historical anomaly Boyce was able to be elected as a FIFA VP for the British FAs in 2011. His nomination came as a result of deadlock between who should assume the position in 2007. Boyce and England’s Geoffery Thompson were both put forward. As no decision could be made it was decided they would split the role with Boyce taking over the second half from 2011 onwards.
What’s Boyce done since assuming that mantle? The position involves a lot of ambassadorial duties, representing FIFA around the globe. On top of that Boyce also chairs several committees. He is Chair of the Referees’ Committee, Vice-Chair of the Media committee and also chair of both the youth and amateur committees.
Boyce stands out on a committee that in the past contained a lot of questionable characters. Blatter will run again in May for the FIFA presidency. As things stand he faces at least one competitor in Jerome Champagne. In September, responding to questions on whether Blatter should run Boyce was direct and blunt on the matter;
” I was in favour of an age limit and a maximum term of office. However, this was put to the Fifa congress and overwhelmingly defeated.”
However Boyce stopped short of questioning Blatter’s resolve and came to the defence of his boss;
“Mr Blatter has done a tremendous amount of work in building Fifa into the organisation it is.”
With so many of that corrupt committee that awarded World Cups to those two bastions of of transparency; Qatar and Russia what does Jim Boyce have to say on the matter? Well strangely for a man so high in the FIFA food chain Boyce is again direct. He has called for the full release of the Garcia Report.
It’s interesting Boyce says all the right things. However this is the same man who failed to report receiving a £16,000 watch given to him by the Brazilian Confederation of Football prior to the World Cup. Boyce claims he was unaware he had actually received the watch and only found it after news of the watch gifts came to light.
According to Boyce he only discovered the watch after looking in the gift bag given to him by the Brazilians in September, long after the World Cup. The watch had been in his garage the whole time. It’s up to yourself to decide what’s more astounding, not reporting a £16,000 watch or not knowing you were in possession of a £16,000 watch.
Interestingly, growing up in Northern Ireland gives Boyce a uniquely qualified position from which to comment on the unifying powers of sport. Boyce knows a thing or two about the Troubles. In the 1970s he was nearly killed in 1971 when a bomb went off as he walked in the door of his workplace in Belfast. Boyce broke three bones in his leg and was in plaster for 10 months.
Boyce believes athletes can do more than politicians in uniting countries and believes that is certainly the case in Northern Ireland;
“People in sport have portrayed this country in a much better light than our politicians.”
It’s a remarkable rise for someone involved in the game truly at the grass roots level. Jim’s love of Cliftonville has never wavered despite his meteoric rise. Boyce will step down next year when his term comes to an end. It’s a pity Blatter won’t do the same.
Sean Curtin, Pundit Arena.