KEIR RADNEDGE in MAURITIUS: Progress at FIFA Congress here this week on two issues which critics consider crucial to the credibility of reforms appears questionable.
The subjects are term limits and age limits for the mandates of the president and executive members.
Both are important to allay fears that without such safeguards world football’s political elite remains at ongoing risk of being perceived as a self-perpetuating, self-interested gerontocracy.
However president Sepp Blatter, in an in-house interview with FIFA.com, expressed his own doubts about an age limit and issued a caution to confederations that term limits would be fair for FIFA only if applied on down through the game.
Both appear as single items for discussion and vote at Congress on Friday but, without clear direction from the FIFA exco, may not attain the necessary three-quarters majority for a change to statutes.
Blatter said: “I’ve already said I was against the age limit as I believe it is not a relevant criteria, not everyone is the same at 60, 70, 80, etc. It could even be seen as discriminatory. Passion makes the difference.
“However I am not against a limitation of a number of mandates, this rule applies in many democracies in fact. But then it should apply to everybody.”
FIFA was dragged, kicking and screaming, into a reform process in 2011 after a string of scandals from which its reputation among the worldwide football family has yet to recover.
Blatter said he believed that this congress would mark the conclusion of the major work necessary following proposals set out by an independent governance committee headed byBaselprofessor Mark Pieth and despite reservations expressed by Transparency International.
“We are exactly following the roadmap which was established at the FIFA Congress 2011,” said the 78-year-old Swiss who appears likely to want to seek re-election for a fifth term of office in 2015.
He added: “We have been transparent on what was done and we have followed the majority of the recommendations . . . so I’m extremely proud to say this process will conclude at the 2013 Congress.
“However, this does not mean that FIFA will stop adapting and taking measures with regards to governance, and in regards sport politics.
“I understand Transparency International pushes for more. They have their own idea on how the reform process could have been done, I acknowledge that. However, I believe in our process, we achieved a lot already and the system in place works well.”
He thought the departure of several scandal-enshrouded exco members – he did not name them but these have included Mohamed Bin Hammam (Qatar), Chuck Blazer (United States), Nicolas Leoz (Paraguay), Ricardo Teixeira (Brazil) and Jack Warner (Trinidad) – was evidence that the reform process had proved effective.
Blatter also underlined the significance to the world game of FIFA setting a disciplinary lead in the sport’s fight against racism and other discrimination.
He said: “In my view, fines achieve little and, on the contrary, point deductions and exclusion from competitions could be more effective measures.”
Blatter also echoed last week’s call from UEFA president Michel Platini for politicians and governments to support action against matchfixing.