Polish FA needs major shake-up, minister says
Poland's PZPN football association needs a major shake up, Sports Minister Joanna Mucha said on Tuesday, upping the pressure on its embattled chief Grzegorz Lato after a poor Euro 2012 showing.
Lato, a former playing icon whose star has fallen during four years in charge of the PZPN, is set to announce at the end of this week whether he will seek a new term when the association holds a leadership election in October.
Two weeks ago, as co-hosts Poland crashed out of Euro 2012 in the group stage, Mucha had pressed Lato to make good on an earlier pledge to step down if the team failed to make it to the knock-out round of the European championship.
"There's absolutely no conflict. Neither with the PZPN, nor with its president," Mucha underlined on Tuesday.
"I'm simply demanding, or rather calling on, the PZPN to ring the changes. Because change is needed. Change will benefit Polish football, the organisation and all of us," the 36-year-old politician added.
Lato, 62, has long been under fire in the Polish media for alleged bad management and claims of corruption at the PZPN, which he denies.
Demands that he fall on his sword have mounted in the wake of Poland's disappointment Euro 2012, when they managed only draws with Greece and Russia and then lost to the Czech Republic.
Many fans had dreamed of the tournament on home soil marking a revival of the country's long-lost footballing glory days of the 1970s and early 1980s.
Lato is a symbol of that golden age, having been top scorer at the 1974 World Cup, where Poland came third.
His election as PZPN president in 2008 raised hopes that Poland might finally end their long tournament drought.
It also stoked expectations of far-reaching reforms of a Polish football scene plagued by graft and a dearth of decent youth academies to develop young talent.
The government is keenly aware that it cannot move against the PZPN due to rules set down by football's global body FIFA that ban what is seen as political interference in the game.
It fell foul of those regulations in 2008 when it ousted the previous PZPN board for allegedly doing too little to fight match-fixing and failing to pay taxes.
The government asked the Polish Olympic Committee's arbitration tribunal to appoint an administrator to run the PZPN, but backed down after FIFA threatened to ban Poland from international competition.
The bitter dispute was defused when the PZPN held a leadership election in October 2008, voting in Lato.