ZURICH: Alexandra Wrage, who quit FIFA’s reform panel in frustration at the lack of progress, believes the world federation cannot rebuild its reputation while Sepp Blatter remains president writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Wrage indulged in a wide-ranging verbal assault which took in the controversial 2022 World Cup award to Qatar and the failure of sponsors and Swiss politicians to crack down on FIFA’s failings.

The head of anti-corruption organisation Trace International was speaking in an interview recorded with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

Wrage said: “It appears to the public that FIFA is a power unto itself and that it proceeds without any real regard to the reputational damage that it’s suffering. It seems answerable to no-one [even] to an extraordinary, enormously negative response from fans.

“There’s been a very slow start from sponsors and the Swiss government doesn’t seem to be exercising much oversight. So really, a power unto themselves.”

Wrage resigned from the Independent Governance Committee led by Basel specialist Mark Pieth last April after the reform project became stuck in the mud of confederation politics.

Sponsor reticence

She added: “I don’t think FIFA is really going to turn its reputation around and really restore public confidence while [Mr Blatter] is at the helm.  He’s been there a very long time and lived through a large number of scandals without anything really changing.

“I don’t mean to imply that he’s been personally tainted by any of the bribery allegations or anything, but at the same time, it was on his watch and he’s lost a large number of his executive committee members to allegations of corruption – either they’ve been forced out or they’ve had to resign.

“When you’re running a ship like that, I think it’s time to rethink the management.”

Blatter has expressed a will to stand again next May for a fifth term as FIFA president. Only French former FIFA official Jerome Champagne has so far declared himself in opposition though Chilean Harold Mayne-Nicholls and Jordan’s Asian FIFA vice-president Prince Ali are both considering their positions.

Blatter was not the only target for Wrage. She also took a swipe at ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert for discrediting whistleblowers Bonita Mersiades and Phaedra Almajid in his interim summary of the the bid scandal investigation.

Wrage also expressed disappointment with the reaction of FIFA’s sponsors.

She said: “The parade of scandals that we have seen coming out of FIFA and the World Cup bids has been pretty extraordinary – and it was time to hear from the sponsors.

“I do think pressure through sponsors to rerun the vote would be a huge step forward and would do a great deal to restore public confidence in what’s happened so far. I’m not really confident that we’re going to see that.  But I do think that’s the only way that FIFA is going to be able to clear its reputation on this issue.”