KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: Michael Garcia, FIFA’s own ethics investigator, believes that its disciplinary system needs greater transparency to help heal the “disconnect” with the outside world.
The American lawyer made his direct comments in the world federation’s own headquarters during a conference about ethics in sport.
Garcia’s public appearances are few and far between because of nature of his work as ethics investigator so it was enlightening to hear his views, particularly while the his inquiry over the 2018-2022 World Cup bids scandal remains ongoing.
Earlier in the day independent judge Hans-Joachim had said that no decisions over the substance of Garcia’s report, delivered in early September, should be expected until at least next April.
Garcia is aware that FIFA’s battered reputation could suffer even further damage should there be any question about the credibility of the disciplinary process and its outcome. Hence the need for as much transparency as is possible within the law.
He asked: “Why do we have something of a disconnect?” – and answered his own question by comparing FIFA culture with his previous work in the United States public attorneys’ department in Manhattan.
Garcia said: “We had a very strong reputation and there was very strong public confidence in the work that was done. But I doubt we would have enjoyed that confidence if we could not have announced who had been charged with what, if the only record of the proceedings had been just a name and a sentence.
“If the press release would read: ‘Joe Smith was sentenced today for 20 years for violating the United States code 1922,’ there could be little support from a public so little informed.
“So I think what we need at this point is greater transparency in the process, in the charges, in the decisions, and the basis of the decisions, while continuing to protect the rights of all persons.”
Earlier Garcia had praised the strength of the two-year-old upgraded FIFA Code of Ethics.
He said: “As chairman of the investigatory committee I get to decide which cases to open and how far to take a case. This is very different to many other sports codes whose bodies have limits to what their investigatory groups can do.
“We are not a law enforcement body so we don’t have power to compel. But we have a very important tool to obtain co-operation in that, under the code, all football officials are required to cooperate and there are sanctions which have been very publicly applied.”
Just before the World Cup in Brazil, as an example, Garcia and Eckert suspended Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer from all football-related activity for refusing to answer questions about his time on the FIFA exco during the World Cup bid process.
Garcia also endorsed Eckert’s comments about the tight security surrounding his report which had been seen by only by Eckert and their two deputies.
This brought him back to the issue of the value of the ethics code.
He acknowledged: “It’s a robust code and is implemented in a fair and thorough way.”
But, added Garcia, “the process must lead to something else. The goal has to be instilling confidence in the process beyond any particular case. The public has to have confidence that the process is working in a fair way.”
Hence the need for greater transparency from a world governing body too self-protective for too long.