KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Embattled world football federation FIFA has set out the next step along the road to what it hopes will be a rescue from collapse under the weight of scandal.
Early this month the executive committee approved a package of reform proposals including its own replacement by a 36-strong supervisory council, term limits for the president and senior officials, tougher integrity checks and pay transparency.
Since then president Sepp Blatter has been hit with an eight-year ban by the ethics committee for misconduct in office, a punishment which has split opinion in the game and may prompt turmoil.
On February 26 an extraordinary congress is due to elect a new president and, the exco hopes, vote in the reform proposals en bloc.
However the latter may be a ‘hard sell’ to many national associations in the developing world who resent what they consider a ‘European plot’ to oust Blatter.
As in recent congresses, leaders of many associations in Africa and Asia in particular may view the reform proposals as a threat to their own local powers.
Agenda for change
This could endanger the prospects of reformers gaining the three-quarters majority essential among the 209 associations to enact a change in statutes.
FIFA has just published the agenda for the congress. In an introduction, interim president Issa Hayatou urges approval of the reforms, despite his own track record of tight restrictions on opposition within his own African confederation.
Hayatou says: “This is a landmark occasion in the history of FIFA and comes at a crucial time as we focus on the hard work of restoring credibility and stability.
“I hope that all of the confederations and our member associations will fully embrace these reforms. This will demonstrate to the world that we have listened and learned from recent events and are taking the necessary steps.”
Some 41 individuals and corporations have been indicted by the United States Department of Justice in the $200m FIFAGate corruption scandal in the Americas which has seen the arrest of a clutch of senior members of the world federation’s exco.
Earlier this week both Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini, who is also a FIFA vice-president, were banned from all football for eight years and fined for misconduct. Both have denied wrongdoing and said they will appeal.
The draft statute amendments point up a specific responsibility on leaders of the world federation.
One says: “The president shall aim to foster a positive image of FIFA and to ensure that FIFA’s mission, strategic direction, policies and values, as defined by the Council, are protected and advanced.”
Members of the council – which should include a minimum of six women – should “faithfully, loyally and independently act in the best interests of FIFA and the promotion and development of football at global level.”
Another intriguing amendment would ease current strictures aimed at preventing political interference in national associations; these have long been fallacious since many associations are direct subsidiaries of national sports ministries.
One man, at least, will be pleased. Vitaly Mutko is not only a member of the FIFA exco but president of the Russian federation and the Sports Minister of the 2018 World Cup host nation.
The reforms should take effect 60 days after the congress though the machinery to upgrade the exco into the council has yet to be clarified.
Domenico Scala, the Swiss businessman who is audit committee chairman and leading proponent of reform, has suggested all the exco members might resign en bloc, ahead of the scheduled FIFA Congress in Mexico City on May 12-13.
As for the election of Blatter’s successor, five candidates remain standing: Prince Ali bin Al Hussein (Jordan), Jerome Champagne (France), Gianni Infantino (UEFA general secretary, Switzerland), Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al Khalifa of (Asian confederation president, Bahrain) and Tokyo Sexwale (South Africa).
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