KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Mark Pieth, the original FIFA reform leader, has welcomed the recommendations being put to congress in February. But he has conceded his surprise at their scope after gloomy earlier signals and maintained an insistence that the entire governing cabal has to be replaced.
Pieth is the Basel governance guru who was commissioned in 2011 to set up an independent committee to try to drag the world federation, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.
His mandate ended at the end of 2013 when he was vocal in his frustration at what had not been achieved. He also followed subsequent developments without a great deal of hope, particularly when FIFA president Sepp Blatter created a new reform committee under the chairmanship of ex-IOC director-general Francois Carrard.
The new committee appeared ready to bury all but a minimal of proposals already set out by audit chairman Domenico Scala. The executive committee itself also – bafflingly with so much swirling around – allowed itself to be distracted by a nonsensical discussion of whether to expand the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams.
As if FIFA had nothing else to worry about!
In the end the reform committee came up with recommendations, endorsed by the exco with its back to the wall, encompassing governance restructuring, term limits, pay transparency (an important signal to the outside world) and more women in decision-making roles.
In a weekend interview in Switzerland with Tages Anzeiger, Pieth said: “I am delighted that FIFA is suddenly willing to accept my ideas of reform. That surprised me. Until recently, François Carrard had indicated only weakness.
“The resistance within FIFA appeared too strong, especially from the Arab side. A paper which Carrard issued aheads of the last meeting of the exco was still very modest.”
The one crucial reform which Pieth achieved – and whose significance escaped Blatter and Co back then – was the creation of the independent twin-chamber ethics committee. Blatter was incensed when the ethics committee snapped back to bite him hard with suspension for alleged misconduct in office.
Pieth said: “I had doubts for a long time but the ethics committee, as well as the audit and compliance commission which we have created in my time, is finally showing results. People did not expect that.
“The decisive step was that the two commissions have involved the law enforcement agencies of the United States and Switzerland. This was the only way possible, within such a short time, to show nearly 40 people the door.”
Pieth hailed the role of Scala, noting that “Blatter probably did not expect what would happen afterwards.”
He also reiterated his long-standing irritation at the obstacles put in his reform by European federation UEFA. Pieth said: “When I first left FIFA, I was a bit frustrated. It was a difficult situation, we were held back not only by FIFA, but also by UEFA. Platini especially objected to term limits as well as central integrity checks.
“I thought it was just a hiccup in the relationship between himself and Blatter. But now we know why he was so reluctant.”
Not that, for Pieth, structural reforms on their own are enough.
He said: “Everyone has to go. It needs a clean sweep. The reform package alone is not enough. It needs new people. The leadership must be completely replaced.”
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