KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —– Mark Pieth is signing off as FIFA’s reform guide by suggesting his work might best be served by Sepp Blatter staying on as president.
The Basel-based academic was commissioned by Blatter after the international football federation was cast into worldwide derision by a foundation-rocking series of scandals.
These ranged from the ISL bribes saga to cash-for-votes revelations in the 2018/2022 World Cup awards to Russia and Qatar as well as in the 2011 presidential election.
Between 2011 and 2013 a dozen serving or past members of the all-powerful executive committee were either suspended or forced out of the quit the game.
Pieth is retiring from his role as chairman of the Independent Governance Committee at FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo in June.
In a final report he claimed that important progress had been achieved. He also regretted that significant issues had been dodged and warned about a risk of backsliding. Pieth considered the regional confederations, and Europe’s UEFA in particular, a brake on the pace of change.
Pieth expanded on his concerns in an interview with Neue Zurcher Zeitung, the daily newspaper from FIFA’s home city.
A major milestone along the FIFA route is next year’s presidential election in which Blatter is expected to stand for a fifth term; only former FIFA official Jerome Champagne has declared himself a candidate.
UEFA’s French president, Michel Platini, was once considered the most likely successor but he appears more likely now to give it a miss, at least this time around.
Pieth, asked about the election, observed that some reform proposals – such as age/term limits and ‘fit person’ checks – had fallen victim to political duel between Blatter and Platini.
However he added: “A new president could mean a new broom sweeping clean. However, it might also mean that a new president must first establish his power base on a highly political terrain. This means forming alliances which means reform could be at risk because the new president must study whether he can achieve anything at all.
“So, paradoxically, the prospects for ongoing reform are probably greater if Blatter wins more time.
“Reform has to run from top to bottom of the organisation. Of course, it would have helped if Swiss politicians had tightened the laws applying to international sports federations but FIFA continues to regulate itself.
“In FIFA Congress a three-quarters majority is needed for reform so perhaps you should rely on someone who is accepted and in place already.”