KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- Earlier this year FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his fellow representatives on the International Football Association Board were entertained to a black-tie dinner in the Belfast museum created to honour the memory of the construction and launch of the Titanic.
The inevitable metaphors which accompanied that social event are as nothing compared with the almost prophetic fulfilments of the Titanic-style reputational sinking inevitable from the hull-ripping collision with a long-awaited criminal law assault on a ruinous culture.
Not that solutions are simple. Now the International Trade Union Confederation has become the first outside body to come up with anything approaching a constructive proposal about finding a route through the football governance ice flows rather than merely shifting the deckchairs.
FIFA, its bulkheads tipping over water like the Titanic, has been assailed from all sides by a growing number of critical individuals and pressure groups but none with any serious organisational administrative clout.
That might – and it is only ‘might’ – be about to change if the ITUC is seriously committed to a proposal for a creation of an independent commission of football organisations and NGOs.
This may not be the ultimate answer but it is a sign that, after all the critical rhetoric, some serious thought is now being given beyond Zurich about the most appropriate vehicle to govern the game going forward.
ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow has been among the most vociferous of FIFA critics but from the single-issue perspective of concerns about workers’ conditions and rights in Qatar, scheduled host of FIFA’s 2022 World Cup finals.
Expanding the ITUC’s concerns, however, she said: “The world of football and the international community at large must act, or corruption in one of the highest-profile international institutions will be legitimised with destructive impacts well beyond FIFA itself.
“The sheer scale of the corruption investigations and the links of those involved with violations of workers’ and other human rights, demand urgent and decisive action.
“Major FIFA sponsors must also recognise that their reputations and even their own business models are at threat. Sponsors should make this reform commission a condition of any continued relationship with FIFA.”
The call comes after Swiss prosecutors announced investigations into hundreds of bank accounts after seizing nine terabytes of computer data from FIFA. Their inquiry threatens to enshroud FIFA for years to come.
The ITUC did not comment on whether its membership might consider it was becoming distracted from its main task by the high-visibility status offered by world football — the same factor which attracts a variety of governments across the spectrum to seek the ‘approval’ of a FIFA tournament host award.
Outlining the commission concept, it said: “The role of an independent reform commission would be to conduct a comprehensive review of the management and governance of FIFA including its constitution, statutes, financial policies, committee structure, electoral processes and appointments; implement new governance arrangements; and, once implemented, oversee new elections under the revised governance arrangements.
“The review would tackle corruption and human rights issues, including workers’ rights, long-standing areas of criticism on FIFA.”
An independent outsider whose name has been proposed to lead such a commission is that Kofi Annan albeit without any suggestion from the former UN Secretary-General that he would even consider such a testing role.
Out of the political frying pan into the football fire.
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