ZURICH: FIFA’s president proclaimed ‘New Blatter’ after relaunching the world football federation’s reform process writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Whether Sepp Blatter’s latest proposals for term limits, integrity checks and pay transparency will succeed where they failed before appears questionable.
The only difference this time is the promise of an “independent personality” to lead the latest of FIFA’s many task forces. This gambit may be enough to calm, temporarily at least, the image concerns of major World Cup sponsors such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.
If Blatter’s revivalist campaign had been targeted at reform within merely FIFA alone then prospects would be bright. However his insistence that all six confederations and 209 national associations should incorporate the changes appear a sure recipe for failure.
Only Blatter would gain; he could depart the presidency by proclaiming that he had tried his best to force change, only to have been thwarted by delegates of confederations and association over which he, personally, had no control.
FIFA’s executive committee met in special session in Zurich today to decide on both the date for an extraordinary election congress and on a revival of the reform process launched originally in 2011 under the guidance of Basel governance guru Mark Pieth.
The Pieth process produced the twin-chamber ethics committee but failed to persuade congress of the need for term limits, pay transparency and centralised integrity checks. Federations did not want to write such revolutionary controls into their own rulebooks.
Blatter, explaining his reform reasoning, said: “We had a reform process since 2011 but there are still a few items which were not dealt with but now we have decided to go in and we have decided to have a task force: 11 people with 10 ‘players’ and a coach who will be an independent personality.”
That independence will stretch only as far as the people appointing him or her. This is not very far at all. As Blatter said: “We will decide, together with the presidents of the confederations, who will be this personality to chair the reform task force.”
Blatter picked out themes such as “the introduction of term limits, higher standards, of governance and football structures.”
Then he added: “We have to make sure the decisions are taken by the congress and go down in the pyramid, to the confederations and to the national associations – FIFA cannot be alone responsible for the 209 national associations, 300m active participants and 1.6bn people directly or indirectly linked with this game. It has to go through the pyramid of FIFA.”
The chairman and task force will have to work fast. They should be appointed, start work and report back to the next exco meeting in September.
Reviewing the history of the reform process, Blatter took the opportunity – yet again – to stick the knife into European federation UEFA for undermining the previous work by demanding term limits only for the president of FIFA.
A general proposal for term limits and age limits was decisively rejected in Sao Paulo last year by, as Blatter recalled, “a large majority of the congress.”
Nothing, in the meantime, has suggested any change of mind within the greater football heartland. Indeed, concern over the identity of a new president may only cement opposition to other changes of any sort.
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