KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Prince Ali of Jordan has savaged events at FIFA Congress as a “complete betrayal to all of those who thought they had voted for change, transparency, fair play and reform.”
President Gianni Infantino led the world football federation into a PR disaster by smuggling through a regulation which scrapped the guaranteed independence of the ethics and other judicial committees which has been a crucial feature of the reform programme.
The move, at last Friday’s congress in Mexico City, prompted the resignation of audit and compliance chairman Domenico Scala. It also gifted FIFA critics, even those who had grudgingly reined in scepticism after Infantino’s election in February, evidence that the reform programme was dead in the water.
Infantino’s attempt to rescue his nose-diving credibility appeared as little more than semantics and petty, personal point-scoring.
Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, defeated in two successive presidential elections by since-disgraced Sepp Blatter last year and then Infantino this past February, was furious at Infantino’s Mexico manoeuvre whose full significance was not explained to congress delegates.
He said: “The way the vote was put to the 209 members of the FIFA Congress, as well as the effect of that vote, was a complete betrayal to all of those who thought they had voted for change, transparency, fair play and reform.
“It is one of the biggest blows FIFA has received in the last two years; the ramifications of which are massive.
“The motion on which the associations were asked to vote, on the last day, came as a complete surprise to all: in effect, we were suddenly being asked to approve a change to the statutes that removed the independence of the ethics committee, the audit and compliance committee, the appeal committee and the reform committee.”
Prince Ali, Asian vice-president of FIFA between 2011 and 2015 and an outspoken supporter of the need for reform, may find his resolution gaining new support within Asia as the regional confederation heads for internal shuffles of its own.
Reviewing the FIFA reform process now turned on its head, Prince Ali added: “Over the last two years, FIFA has somehow survived public scandal after public scandal.
“The sole reason it survived these trying times was because in its structure it had two independent ethics organs: the ethics committee’s adjudicatory chamber chaired by Hans-Joachim Eckert and the investigatory chamber chaired by Cornel Borbely.”
Eckert and Borbely were responsible for the banning from the game Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini, possibly the most remarkable disciplinary act in the history of modern sport.
Prince Ali said: “Both these chambers had the remit from our Congress and the members of FIFA, to act independently of the Council. In the last two years that shook FIFA, the brave decisions that came to save the world football body came from these two separate structures.
Absence of consultation
“Had delegates to the FIFA Congress been given time to absorb what had been asked, or truly consider this motion, I very much doubt that anyone would have voted for it.
“The fact was that members were not prepared, did not understand what had been asked of them or what it meant clearly. The motion was sprung on the Congress without prior consultation either by FIFA or the newly-named Council.”
He warned: “The damage that can be done to FIFA if the situation remains as it is, is immeasurable.
“We voted that power over football should no longer be held by any one person, not even by the newly-appointed council. We voted for an independent ethics oversight, a council and a non-executive president and above all a return of power to the member associations, because ultimately it is the FAs and the Congress who have responsibility for football.
“The simple reality is that football fans and young people around the world have been completely disillusioned by corruption and feel marginalised by the politics of football at the level of FIFA, confederations, and, in many cases, to national association level.
“That the world body would continue to renege on its promises of good governance sets a poor role model at best and a total betrayal of the faith that our youth around the world have in the beautiful game.”
Infantino, in a news conference after congress, defended the manoeuvre as a simple administrative step whose effectiveness should be judged over the next year.
A subsequent statement claimed that the anti-independence clause was undertaken “on an interim basis” only.