ZURICH: FIFA’s own watchdogs, Domenico Scala and Michael Garcia, have called time on the widespread practice of using expensive watches as goodwill gifts to senior sports officials writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Both men hold independent powers in relation to the world football federation following the governance reform process. Swiss business Scala heads the supervisory audit and compliance committee while American lawyer Garcia is ethics investigator/prosecutor.

The two men are starting to make their presence felt in various spheres and the latest concerns two instances of an attempt to give valuable timepieces to president Sepp Blatter and members of his executive committee at the World Cup finals in Brazil.

One instance was the distribution of commemorative watches commissioned by the CBF, the Brazilian football confederation, from its own partner Parmigiani to various officials including FIFA directors.

A FIFA spokesman said: “The ethics committee was informed about this accordingly and is dealing with the matter.”

A decision is ikely next week from the ethics committee that the watches, included among items in gift bags placed in hotel rooms, should either not be accepted or returned. It is understood that some were refused as inappropriate, in any case.

The instruction that such gifts are beyond appropriate value is virtually certain after Scala and Garcia ruled, at FIFA’s own request, against the receipt of other commemorative watches from the federation own timing sponsor Hublot.

‘Value in kind’

The Swiss firm had “provided FIFA with watches as part of the contract and as a form of value in kind.”

The FIFA spokesman said: “The two chairmen determined in June 2014 that this would not be permitted under the organisation’s compliance rules and as such it was decided not to distribute any of the watches to any members.”

It has been commonplace across sport for many years for sponsors to gave expensive watches to senior directors and members of national and international federations.

Not only has this practice become ever more controversial in ethics terms but customs and revenue authorities have grown increasingly alert to such associated circumvention of import duties.

Scala and Garcia teamed up recently to produce FIFA’s formal set of rules for presidential elections. The regulations control how candidates may, or may not, use their position within the game to promote their campaigns.

So far only former FIFA official Jerome Champagne has declared a candidacy. Blatter said early this week that he would tell the exco Friday that he is prepared to stand next year for a fifth term in office.