NEW YORK: Tokyo Sexwale wasted a clear opportunity in New York today to set a clear reform agenda for the campaign leading up to the FIFA presidential election next February 26 in Zurich write KEIR RADNEDGE.

He sketched out his concerns about the “damaged brand” of the world football federation but offered no specific solutions beyond the standard generalities.

The ICSS Securing Sport conference – with a line-up featuring the great and the good of governance specialists – presented the 62-year-old South African with the keynote address opportunity to state his own case.

Sexwale is an adviser to the world federation’s anti-discrimination committee and heads the the new Palestine-Israel monitoring commission. However FIFA and its problems came, almost as an afterthought, at the end of his remarks.

He opened by restating his ‘calling card’ of 15 years as a Robben Island prisoner alongside Nelson Mandela and how, even there and then, sport had proved a catalyst for “crossing the divide – the prisoner-prisoner divide and the black and white.”

He reviewed his work with the Palestine-Israel panel before insisting “that the biggest threat to sport” was racial bigotry and he outlined the work aims of Global Watch, which he chairs.

Finally he returned to FIFA, asking: “What happened at FIFA?” and then answering his own question by saying: “I don’t really know.”

He echoed critics the world over by describing the “immediate task at hand” and being the need for FIFA “to undo the crippling damage done to the FIFA brand globally by these scandalous allegations of corruption and bribery.”

Stakeholders’ concerned

Sexwale suggested the damage had affected all stakeholders including fans, children, players, officials and even administrators at FIFA headquarters who were already sending their cv’s around other potential employers for fear of how the organisation might implode.

The unknown timescale of the current investigations by the Swiss and United States authorities concerned him too.

Sexwale said: “If I become president I don’t want to be president of an organisation for the next five years in which we might appoint people and don’t know where we are going.

“We in FIFA brought ourselves to this situation by failing to adhere to basic standards. FIFA is deeply affected and this mammoth task of undoing the damage cannot be done by one person, one president. There’s no one man going to fix it.

“To undo the damage require the wisdom of a leadership collective, executive collective, a leadership democratically elected in accordance with the FIFA reforms. FIFA 111 years old and it has to come up to the standards of the 21st century [with] good cooperaton, accountability, transparency and good managements systems with a clear understanding and checks and balances.

“What failed? Transparency, transparency and transparency again. At the end of the day the associations of FIFA must know they are in control.”