KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Marco Villiger, legal director of world federation FIFA in the Sepp Blatter regime, has made a return to international football after an appointment to an Asian confederation working group dealing with rights piracy and ambush marketing.

AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, explaining the role of the body, said: “The AFC recognises the challenges that all our partners are facing in these uncertain times and that makes it especially important that the AFC protects the value and exclusivity of all our rights – both now and in the coming years.”

The Middle East and North Africa region – MENA – has been convulsed in media rights terms by the attempt of a Saudi Arabia-based channel to ‘steal’ major events brodcastng which had been contracted to Qatar’s beIN Media Group.

The new body will advise the AFC’s commercial and legal departments on the protection and preservation of the value of its rights with particular reference to the Asian Cup, Champions League and AFC Cup.

Villiger left FIFA abruptly in August 2018 after serving latterly as joint deputy secretary-general. His departure, after 16 years at FIFA, was viewed at the time as a signal that current president Gianni Infantino was confident that the worst of the FIFAGate years were now in the past. Hence Villiger’s unrivalled understanding of the complexities of the scandal-scarred years was no longer required.

Villiger graduated in 2000 from the University of Zurich and, two years later, joined FIFA and became head of disciplinary matters until after the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The following year he became director of the legal division overseeing issues of players’ status (transfer disputes, agents etc), commercial legal (sponsorship, licensing, bidding  and broadcasting agreements), discipline (doping, suspensions, irregular betting) and corporate  (compliance, litigation, general contracts).

Villiger is understood to have taken the lead role in the appointment of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to act for FIFA ahead of the swoop by the Swiss and United States authorities in May 2015 when seven senior football executives were detained in Zurich on the eve of FIFA Congress on corruption charges.

Blatter, the then president, has denied all prior knowledge of the appointment of Quinn Emanuel. Further Blatter has indicated he believes that Villiger and the then secretary-general Jerome Valcke, had advance knowledge of the police raid on the Baur au Lac hotel, the arrests and the US court case which made a laughing stock of the world football federation.

Villiger went on to create his own consultancy (MV Sports Consulting), providing legal advice in sports, commercial and corporate law.