KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- FIFA has undertaken what the world outside will see as a massive step back towards the dark ages by sacking ethics committee bosses Hans-Joachim Eckert and Cornel Borbely.
The decision by the governing council of world football federation yesterday, at the behest of president Gianni Infantino, not to renominate the pair as heads of the adjudicatory and investigatory arms of the ethics chamber had been the subject of speculation for some time.
As of formal approval by congress in Bahrain tomorrow the pair will pay, in effect, for being too successful in bringing the corrupt heads of world football to sporting justice.
FIFA is struggling, as it is, to convince the world that it has ended the culture of corruption with negative effects on finance and sponsor attraction. This decision will merely make matters worse and court further public derision.
At the least the decision appears ungrateful, considering that it was the remarkable work of Eckert and Borbely in removing the previous regime of Sepp Blatter which opened the door for Infantino to become president last year in the first place.
Blatter and and UEFA president Michel Platini were banned from the game over the conflict of interest affair of a ‘disloyal payment’.
Little-known Colombian lawyer Maria Claudia Rojas will take over the investigative position and former European Court of Justice president Vassilios Skouris from Greece will take over judging.
The decision adds to rumblings about Infantino’s irritation at having been the subject of scrutiny by the ethics committee over issues with the use of private flights and his expense account in the early days of his presidency last year.
A joint statement from German judge Eckert and Swiss investigator Borbely was scathing about their removal.
It said the decision marked an end to FIFA reform work and forecast that the work of the federation would suffer the consequences.
The statement noted that 194 inbstigations over the past four years had resulted in punishments of more than 70 officials and that the end of their joint work would further tarnish the FIFA image.
Eckert and Borbely considered that the FIFA bosses had “attached greater weight to their own and political interests, than to the long-term interests of FIFA. They have accepted jeopardizing FIFA’s integrity, and, hence, the future of the game.”
World Cup decisions
In other decisions FIFA Council approved proposals for the reallocation of slots in the expanded 2026 World Cup.
While increasing Europe’s presence by only three places, from 13 to 16, all other confederations will receive more with the biggest winner being Africa with a jump from five to nine teams.
Also, Council has rejected considering a proposal from the 2026 cohost candidates – United States, Mexico and Canada – that they be given an ‘exclusivity window’ in the bidding process.
New German council member Reinhard Grindel said he had some sympathy for the idea but that its application did not serve “the interest of good governance.”
Hans-Joachim Eckert and Cornel Borbély regret the decision by the FIFA Council to not re-nominate them for the position of the chairmen of the two chambers of FIFA’s Independent Ethics Committee.
The impending non-election will set the work of the Ethics Committee far back and is de facto the end of FIFA’s reform efforts.
It must be assumed that entire FIFA will suffer from this decision in the medium and long term.
The work of a credible and independent Ethics Committee is an important part of the FIFA reforms whose goal was to restore the trust of the public and other stakeholders.
Since 2015 the Investigatory Chamber has carried out 194 investigations and the Adjudicatory Chamber has sentenced more than 70 officials.
The impending and clearly politically motivated non-reappointment puts de facto an end to the reform efforts. This will inevitably lead to a renewed loss of trust and further hurt the already tarnished image of FIFA.
Consequently, the non-reappointment will have a negative impact on FIFA in the medium and long term.
The successors of both chairmen will have to familiarize themselves with the dossiers and the processes. The non-election will lead to long delays in current investigations and proceedings, and complicate the prosecution of violations of the Code of Ethics.
It appears that the heads of FIFA have attached greater weight to their own and political interests, than to the long-term interests of FIFA.
They have accepted jeopardizing FIFA’s integrity, and, hence, the future of the game.
The two chairmen Cornel Borbély and Hans-Joachim Eckert look back at the work accomplished by the Ethics Committee with pride.
They have enforced the Code of Ethics with independence and consistent legal work, and hence, have made sports history. Their work received the sympathy and support of reform-minded forces, for which they want to express their sincere gratitude.