- Jason Davis

It's insidious, this "did not rule out" business. It conjures belief that something might happen or that action might be taken, when there's likely no chance of either. Headline writers love to lean on "did not rule out" because it's a negative phrase that seems to convey a positive message.

Meanwhile, the actual "news" reads something like this:

"The European legend did not rule out a move to Major League Soccer, saying he has lucrative offers from clubs in several leagues and is considering them all."

Which is not news at all, really. No reasonably intelligent player would willingly eliminate a convenient stalking horse. 

Ambiguity is in high supply when it comes to "did not rule out." Public figures, be they footballers with money at stake, politicians looking to appease possible voters, or FIFA presidents on the stump playing up the possible malfeasance of his opponent's home federation, will do everything they can to make it sound good. Commit without committing. Give the illusion of action without actually having to act. 

Sepp Blatter "did not rule out" something this week. The FIFA president did not rule out the possibility of a re-vote on the site of the 2022 World Cup amidst allegations that Qatar bribed their way to victory. The Qatar whistle-blower will travel to Zurich to present evidence regarding the bribes, at which point FIFA will determine what action to take. Per the story linked above, Blatter "refused to put any limit on the measures they could take if they uncovered wrongdoing."

Which means nothing. Excuse the cynicism, but Blatter isn't dropping a bombshell here. If Qatar did pay members of the ExCo for votes and evidence is given proving they did, shouldn't the answer to the question "Will there be a re-vote" be an unequivocal "yes"? Blatter didn't refuse to do anything but commit. Providing no guidance on possible action isn't "refusing to put any limit on measures" it's a refusal to have a spine.

In an interview with the Press Association, Blatter said that the notion that the 2022 vote would be reheld was "alarming" but conceded it was one that had a groundswell of popular support and was "circulating around the world". He said: "But don't ask me now yes or no, let us go step by step. It's like we are in an ordinary court and in an ordinary court we cannot ask: 'If, if, if'."

Baffling. If the possibility of a re-vote was something that fell under the purvey of sports betting, I'd be sure to wager that it won't happen. Whether Blatter voted for Qatar or not is immaterial. His first, and only, concern throughout his tenure has been to protect the FIFA fiefdom (FIFA-dom?). While he happily stands by and watches Qatar - and by extension his presidential opponent Mohammed bin Hammam - take hit after hit, it's almost inconceivable that he would allow his organization to be strong-armed into holding another vote. The anti-corruption floodgates would swing open. FIFA might very well be swept away.

Remember that neither Bin Hammam nor Blatter will admit that FIFA is corrupt in any meaningful way. Lip service is given to transparency, and both men (see above) claim to have an ear for popular opinion. But until they are forced to commit to change, do not equivocate on the action needed, or do something to fix the problems apparent in the organization without grandstanding, we, as fans of the sport, have no reason to believe anything they say.

When the time comes, it will be deny, deny, deny. Until then, a bit of "did not rule out" will do the trick.

False alarm, everybody. Don't pull those dreams of another American World Cup out just yet.

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