The Home of FIFA: working late into the night


FIFA should consider introducing limits to the terms of office of its officials – which would include the president – under proposals put forward by governance expert Mark Pieth. At the moment no limits exist in the number of years the president and the members of the executive committee may serve.

True, the likes of Grondona, Villar and Co do have to come up every now and again for re-election within their ‘home’ confederations but the longer they remain power the more patronage they accrue and the more entrenched they become.

Pieth, a professor in criminal law at the University of Basel and chairman of FIFA’s independent governance committee, does not put it like this but the central power within the exco is vested in a self-perpetuating gerontocracy.

Hence it is the worst example of the governance flaw running through all successful, high-visibility, rich sports . . . they grew out of the amateurism era too fast for the governing and administrative structures to keep pace.

Thus FIFA, to quote but one example, was unable to prevent an exco member having an interest in businesses dealing with regional television rights and with sports-travel-ticketing packages. One such example was Jack Warner who vanished from the scene after being summoned before the Ethics Committee over the infamous Bin Hammam affair.

Warner, in those spheres, did nothing to breach any rules simply because there were no rules.

Clearly that should have changed a long time ago and it will be a bleak strand of Blatter’s eventual legacy that he allowed FIFA to drift into infamy.

American Chuck Blazer is one exco member who believes that length of service creates the experience essential to carrying out the work involved to the highest standard. But there has to be a balance between experience and comfort zone. The old notion that entry into the exco is a one-way life-time ticket to five-star service and VIP match tickets needs to be consigned to a sad and sorry history.

Prince Ali of Jordan, one of the new and few exco members under the age of 50, had precisely the right attitude when he noted recently that the FIFA pyramid, to which president Sepp Blatter is so attached, needed to be turned upside down.

The exco should not be considered the highest pinnacle: it should be the grounded fulcrum which serves the game above it. The last shall be first, the first shall be last; the servants should be the masters and the masters should be the servants.

And all by 2013, says Blatter.

The clock has been ticking loudly ever since Congress last June 1.

Pieth’s proposals

*The FIFA president should have a limited term in office as should FIFA exco members

* Independent members should sit on the FIFA exco, with a lead director to hold elected members to account

* World Cup votes are “highly visible and politically sensitive decisions and . . . a mix of corruption risk and conflict of interest concerns” so the voting procedure needs to be revamped

* Payments to FIFA member associations and people and/or organisations close to them need “close financial scrutiny”

* Payments to contractors and service providers should be analysed to ensure no corruption

* Cash for development projects such as GOAL should be controlled from beginning to end to ensure the money does not end up in the pockets of officials

* Specific rules need to be drawn up to clarify FIFA’s position towards gifts and hospitality, political and charitable contributions

* A “discrete disclosure channel” hotline to report corruption should be made available

* FIFA should adopt corporate anti-corruption and anti conflict of interest controls

* FIFA officials should be subject to due diligence to establish whether they are suitable for office.