CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in LONDON: FIFA president Sepp Blatter should “resign for the good of the sport,” according to a former member of FIFA’s Independent Governance Committee.
Michael Hershman, founder of Transparency International, was speaking at the ICSS Securing Sport Conference at Lancaster House in London.
Hershman had been a leading member of the world footnall federation’s reform process, led by Mark Pieth. But he did not believe the changes implemented went far enough and placed responsibility purely at Blatter’s feet.
He said: “I think that president Blatter should resign for the good of the sport, and for the good of the organisation. He was in a leadership position when all of the scandals happened and he hasn’t taken personal responsibility.
“It’s true that he hasn’t been found to have personal wrongdoing or been involved in personal wrongdoing but, frankly, my experience has been that when you have organisations that are continually under a cloud, one of the most effective ways to get out from under that cloud is to change the leadership.
“That reform was needed. They really didn’t think that organisation was broken and during the course of our deliberations in the Independent Governance Committee we continually faced pushback on many of our recommendations.”
Reforms which were carried through included the creation of a twin-chamber ethics committee system but other proposals, such as age and/or term limits and salary transparency were rebuffed.
Hershman added: “”One of the key reasons why you have to have term limits [is] you have to have new blood come in. Some of the executive committee members are dinosaurs and haven’t come into the 21st century understanding the change in culture and change in climate when it comes to ethics and values.
“There is new blood that’s come in and I hope one day that group will become the new leadership of FIFA. The most difficult part of change is cultural change and the way to get that change is to have new members.”
Hershman also went on to call for investigator Michael Garcia’s report into the World Cup 2018 and 2022 bidding processes to be published. The report is now in the hands of FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert but many, including several executive committee members and Garcia himself have called for it to be made public.
FIFA lawyers have insisted a respect of confidentiality is the reason for the report remaining under wraps but Hershman believed common sense should prevail.
He said: “If you look at ethics codes and investigatory bodies, you’ll often find confidentiality procedures but there are always exceptions to these rules and in a case like this, common sense should dictate what FIFA does rather than the written rule.
“Even if people aren’t punished for one reason or another because there is no jurisdictional oversight, it will bring some clarity to what went on”.
Hershman admitted to incredulity over the issue of luxury watches given to senior FIFA officials and national association chiefs by the Brazilian federation during the 2014 World Cup.
He said: “After all FIFA has been through, after all the recommendations that we have made, after all of the comments over the last three years how you do accept a $16,000 watch? What makes you do that? Have you been asleep the last few years?
“I realise those watches didn’t come from FIFA, they came from Brazil but the people who accepted them know what the new rules and code of conduct is.”
The scandal was a breach of the FIFA ethics code but several executive committee members – including UEFA president Michel Platini – had refused an order from Garcia to hand back the watches.
Hershman believed that wholesale reform would be unlikely without a change in leadership and pressure from FIFA’s major stakeholders – which he did not see as forthcoming.
He blamed World Cup sponsors such as Adidas, Visa and Emirates as partly reponsible, saying: “The sponsors have simply paid lip-service . . . they haven’t put their money where their mouth is. They haven’t said: ‘Unless you reform and make these changes, we’re going to walk away from the table.’
“There’s just too much at stake; it’s all about money.”
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