KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Ripples from the Carlo Tavecchio affair run beyond Rome and the Italian football federation, washing over on to European federation UEFA and its ambivalent relationship with world governing body FIFA.
To recap: In May 2011 scandal-scourged FIFA launched a reform process which produced various valuable, though largely unacknowledged, administrative changes.
The process was led by Basel governance expert Mark Pieth. He wound up his mandate last December amid mixed emotions of satisfaction at what had been achieved and frustration at what had not.
One notable failure was to persuade the world football family to introduce age and/or term limits for senior directors; another failure was that FIFA should introduce a ‘fit and proper persons’ test for any committee member.
FIFA Congress voted down age/term limits in Sao Paulo in June. The idea of a ‘fit and proper persons’ test did not even reach that far: it was blocked in negotiations by Michel Platini’s UEFA. Europe insisted that such gatekeeping duties should be the responsibility of the six regional confederations.
UEFA’s stance has been undermined – spectacularly – by the Tavecchio issue.
He was elected as Italian federation president last week despite having referred to African footballers as “banana eaters” in an obviously racist comment during his campaign. His words prompted a storm of protest from within and beyond football but Tavecchio was still elected to head the FIGC.
In the meantime Tavecchio, although content to express such attitudes openly, has also been a long-standing member of UEFA’s own youth and amateur football committee.
Not any old committee . . . but a committee whose duties must encompass educational responsibilities and exemplary attitudes for young people in football (and whose president is FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce).
So much for UEFA’s ability to operate an effective ‘fit and proper persons’ test.
In placing Tavecchio on such a committee UEFA demonstrated very clearly that confederations do not possess either the competence or the will to check out appointees.
All the more important then that FIFA should operate its own second line of defence.
UEFA also played a key role in blocking Pieth’s proposal for age and/or term limits for senior FIFA directors.
One reason for blocking such a proposal was entirely self-serving: FIFA would want its own reforms copied down through the confederations and national associations. No-one in power in Nyon was ready to have his or her wings clipped in such a way.
UEFA responded to Pieth with its own counter-proposal: that the only limit, of two terms, should be applied to the FIFA president. Not to members of the FIFA executive committee.
This piece of illogical lunacy provided the excuse for UEFA’s members to then vote, virtually en bloc, against term/age limits at FIFA Congress in June, thus ensuring it will not return to the agenda for many years, if ever.
The defeat of age limits possessed a logic as being discriminatory. No such argument exists against term limits which, as various FIFA financial scandals have illustrated all too clearly, would reduce the dangers of a serious abuse of power and not only within the world federation.
UEFA has opened an investigation into Tavecchio’s comments. He has not been suspended as a committee member pending its outcome. More questions need asking beyond merely his precise words . . . and not only of Tavecchio himelf.