KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Alexandra Wrage, president of anti-corruption adviser Trace International, has quit the panel advising the FIFA reform process in protest at its lack of significant progress.
Wrage’s decision will be only a minor embarrassment to president Sepp Blatter since FIFA’s Independent Governance Committee had been reduced to mere pressure group status last autumn when active work was taken out of its hands and handed over to the general secretaries of the six regional confederations.
At least Wrage, who hinted at likely resignation a month ago, has backed her words with action. Lead consulant Mark Pieth is still chairman of the IGC despite several threats to quit.
Wrage’s stated frustrations exemplified the difficulties facing Pieth and his ‘outside’ advisers.
Informal conversations with this writer suggested several found themselves, if not out of their depth then out of their comfort zone.
Used to a corporate world with clear lines of command, they struggled with the sports administrations concept whose dynamic – for historical, cultural and social reasons – is all about an ongoing power exchange between directors, officials, federations and committees.
TRACE justified Wrage’s resignation by saying FIFA ”remains the closed society that fuelled its problems to begin with.”
Last month Wrage had described herself as “frustrated and surprised” that FIFA’s executive committee had failed to endorse proposals she considered “really bland, straightforward governance provisions.”
She told Bloomberg: “It’s been the least productive project I’ve ever been involved in . . . [In Mauritius] I’d have just been lying on the beach. None of our items made it onto the agenda.
“The strangest thing is that people forget this was FIFA’s idea. They could have done nothing. They weathered lots of scandals before, so why do it and work to undermine the effort? I suppose they thought they were going to get easy good optics without fundamental change.”
She had found FIFA “byzantine and impenetrable” and her experience as “more baffling than frustrating.”
Blatter set the reform process under way in June 2011 after a plethora of scandals had reduced FIFA to laughing stock status.
The first year’s work produced an expanded and improved ethics system and admission of a woman to the exco for the first time.
The second year’s work has focused on structural detail such as integrity checks as well as age and term limits, transparency on wages and bonuses plus executive committee composition.
Even many of the diluted proposals may not be approved because they involve a change of statutes necessitating a thee-quarters majority in congress in Mauritius at the end of next month.
The ‘image value’ of those gains risks being lost amid further negative publicity over FIFA’s apparent naivety – to say the least – over the CONCACAF financial scandal, the Qatar 2022 staging confusion and the looming outcome of the overdue ethics report into the ISL scandal.
Wrage’s resignation, by comparison, may appear a minor blip on the FIFA radar.
FIFA responded to Wrage’s decision with a formal “no comment.”
** FIFA was hit by an internet security breach when Twitter accounts @SeppBlatter and @fifaworldcup were both hacked.
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