KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Maria Claudia Rojas has been dropped as head of investigations of the ethics department of world football federation FIFA.

Colombian Rojas, by vote of FIFA Congress, has been replaced by Martin Ngoga of Rwanda and was diplomatically slipped down into a role as joint vice-chair of the adjudicatory section under re-elected Greek chair Vassilios Skouris.

Rojas was a surprise choice four years ago, partly because of her lack of familiarity with English in which much of the ethics work is undertaken.

She has been criticised for a perception in some quarters that she took a hard line with ‘easy’ targets but was less ready to challenge more established figures and organisations.

The appointment of Ngoga, a former prosecutor general of Rwanda, was one of a swathe of governance changes intended to take FIFA through the next four years.

FIFA statement:

The 71st FIFA Congress has unanimously voted to bring the bidding process for the hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in line with the process for the men’s FIFA World Cup. The allocation of all future hosts will be voted on by the FIFA Congress, just as is the case with the FIFA World Cup, and will no longer be decided by the FIFA Council (as was still the case most recently in June 2020, when Australia and New Zealand were announced as hosts of the 2023 edition in a transparent vote).

11 areas for action

In his address to all 211 FIFA member associations, President Gianni Infantino outlined 11 areas for action in football over the coming year, in which FIFA will take a leading role. From improving the men’s and women’s international match calendars for the sake of the players, to looking at opportunities to use modern technology to further connect the global football community, President Infantino listed the top priorities for world football’s governing body.

On the subject of women’s football, the FIFA President highlighted the ongoing growth of the women’s game and the fact that qualifying for the 2023 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup would feature more than 180 teams, up from the 140 that participated in the qualifiers for the 2019 edition. He said that now is the time for FIFA to increase this momentum and further professionalise and commercialise the women’s game, such as through standalone media rights deals and new competitions.

Referring to the international transfer market, President Infantino stressed that there is still a heavy imbalance in world football and that the global spend on player transfers (USD 7 billion in 2019) is not reflected in the payment of compensation to training clubs (just USD 70 million in 2019), who often go unremunerated. To remedy this, the FIFA Clearing House will help enforce training compensation and solidarity payments, potentially raising the amount to USD 300 million per year.

On youth football and technical development, President Infantino highlighted the “Give every talent a chance” initiative, through which FIFA is working with its member associations to develop tailor-made plans to help them develop young footballing prospects. FIFA will also look at the situation of referees worldwide and seek to professionalise their involvement in the game.

Together with The IFAB, FIFA is working on improving the Laws of the Game to protect the interests of the players (with the introduction of concussion substitutions) and to encourage attacking football (proposing a change to the interpretation of the offside law in view of the impact of VAR).

Exploring new opportunities

Meeting by videoconference for the second time, the FIFA Congress also unanimously voted to create a new Football Tribunal within FIFA, which will adopt dispute-resolution responsibilities from the dissolved Players’ Status Committee

The FIFA Congress approved a number of proposals submitted by member associations, namely:

  • that a comprehensive consultation process be conducted to explore opportunities for women’s global competitions, including a women’s world league (proposal put forward by the Jamaica Football Federation);
  • that a feasibility study be carried out to explore the possible impact of holding the FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Women’s World Cup every two years instead of the current four-year interval (proposal put forward by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation); and
  • that the FIFA administration make a proposal for the future of FIFA’s youth competitions (proposal put forward by the Liberian Football Association).

The FIFA Congress also voted on the election and/or re-election of the chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of the independent committees:

Disciplinary Committee: chairperson – Jorge Palacio (Colombia); deputy chairperson – Anin Yeboah (Ghana)

Investigatory chamber of the Ethics Committee: chairperson – Martin Ngoga (Rwanda); deputy chairpersons – Bruno De Vita (Canada) and Parasuraman Subramanian (Malaysia)

Adjudicatory chamber of the Ethics Committee: chairperson – Vassilios Skouris (Greece); deputy chairpersons – María Claudia Rojas (Colombia) and Fiti Sunia (American Samoa)

Appeal Committee: chairperson – Neil Eggleston (USA); deputy chairperson – Thomas Bodström (Sweden)

Governance, Audit and Compliance Committee: chairperson – Mukul Mudgal (India); deputy chairperson – Chris Mihm (USA)

The Congress approved FIFA’s financial statements for 2020, as well as the detailed budget for 2022, both of which are available as part of FIFA’s Annual Report 2020.