KEIR RADNEDGE in Manchester: FIFA’s anti-corruption whistleblower project, announced amid great fanfare last September in Zurich, was put on ice by order of president Sepp Blatter before it had been even launched.
This decision – apparently at odds with Blatter’s attack only last week on the “scourge” of matchfixing – emerged today in comments by departing head of security Chris Eaton during a debate on betting in football at the Soccerex European Forum.
The Australian former policeman had been appointed by FIFA to lead the fight against corruption in the sport. He leaves in May to join the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security. He denied that this was connected with the decision to ‘pull’ the hotline which should have been ‘connected’ last February.
The decision had been taken, said Eaton, because Blatter thought FIFA’s entire anti-corruption strategy should be reviewed within the ongoing reform process being led by Mark Pieth, the Basel governance expert.
Pieth’s proposals for change, contained in a 15-page report, are being considered this week by the FIFA executive committee in Zurich.
Eaton said: “After we launched [the hotline and amnesty] the president decided to suspend it because he had appointed the governance committee to look at the overall picture of all anti-corruption issues concerning FIFA.
“I understood it and I’m pleased they saw this as being a valuable programme to apply in a more total way. I was proposing a programme aimed specifically at matchfixing; FIFA wanted to look at this as a corporate issue rather than just in terms of matchfixing.
“The decision was made for the best of intentions and applied to the totality of corruption in football.”
Eaton was not aware of how anti-corruption measures figure in the Pieth Report but has no doubt about the importance of collective action against matchfixing by sports, government agencies and the betting industry.
He said: “Particularly when you are a massive business, such as FIFA, you need to have professional (whistleblowing) programmes in place to show their transparency. I’m certain it’s on the agenda of the governance committee but I can’t be certain what they’ll recommend.”
In fact, it appears that the decision has already been taken judging by the terms of appointment of Eaton’s successor, German ex-policeman Ralf Mutschke.
FIFA said Mutschke would take charge of “the new FIFA Security Division, responsible for all security matters related to FIFA competitions across the world, the global security concepts for football in general, security around FIFA headquarters in Zurich, the FIFA President and the FIFA administration, as well as for matters related to the integrity and protection of the game itself.”
Expansion of the anti-corruption operation c
ould lead, theoretically, to security provision for members of the exco concerned about the activities of a colleague.
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