KEIR RADNEDGE in SAO PAULO: President Sepp Blatter need not fear – but FIFA is heading for the introduction of a limit on terms of office.
The process cannot happen overnight but a strategy devised by former German federation president Theo Zwanziger means at least it could soon be enshrined in world federation law.
A debate on term and age limits has proved one of the most contentious issues raised by the reform process launched in 2011 after FIFA was rocked to the core by a string of scandals in which the long-term grasp on power of senior executive members played a key role.
Mark Pieth, the Basel governance expert who led the reform process, proposed the introduction of age limits or term limits or both.
However debate was stifled after member associations of European federation UEFA agreed unanimously – and illogically – that a term limit should be introduced but only for the FIFA president and not for members of the executive committee.
Subsequently FIFA president Blatter pronounced himself opposed to age limits on the grounds that this was discrimination. The fact that Blatter is 78 and considering the pursuit of a further four-year term of office may also have been a consideration.
This left a restriction on mandates as the only realistic issue and Zwanziger, guiding the reform process, could not obtain exco approval because UEFA’s delegates insisted they were all bound by the block dictated by their own members.
Hence the issue was passed over when FIFA Congress approved a number of reform proposals last year in Mauritius.
This year’s Congress, which opens tomorrow/Tuesday in Sao Paulo, will consider the issue again when Zwanziger and his reformist allies will seek a ‘simple majority’ vote in favour of a mandates restriction.
Zwanziger can then return to the exco and point out that the supreme FIFA body is in favour of a mandates limit. The exco, UEFA members included, would then be duty-bound to agree a position on which form of limit to propose to Congress next year.
A statutes proposal then, with exco support, should secure the necessary three-quarters majority.
The favoured mandates limit appears to comprise three consecutive four-year terms. However, current exco members – and, indeed, president Blatter himself – would benefit from a four-year ‘transition’ accommodation.
Even this small but decisive step forward would represent a personal victory for Zwanziger who has emerged as an influential member of the FIFA exco since joining as a UEFA delegate in place of Franz Beckenbauer in 2011.
Zwanziger, always a declared sceptic of the Qatar World Cup award, has taken a leading role in pressing the Gulf state over its labour rights failings. He and Blatter are due back in Qatar later this summer for an update on suggested changes to the employment laws applied to migrant construction workers.
# # # # #