FIFA Asks Members to Back Reforms After Bribery Allegations

FIFA President Sepp Blatter will tomorrow ask world soccer’s 208 national associations to approve the first in a series of measures to combat corruption and bring transparency.

Blatter, 76, last year sealed a fourth four-year term as the head of the organization that oversees the $5 billion World Cup. He promised action after criticism from sponsors, fans and governments following a number of bribery allegations.

Delegates at FIFA’s 62nd Congress in Budapest will be asked to agree on changes to the way it deals with the investigation and prosecution of corrupt practices, and the creation of a body to vet the propriety of individuals to sit on its executive.

“There are many inside that are perhaps not in favor but we have to do something for the good governance of FIFA, for the transparency of FIFA,” Michel Platini, president of European soccer body UEFA, told reporters.

FIFA’s ethics committee was criticized in the wake of last year’s crisis. If the move is approved, the body will adopt a two-tier structure split into investigatory and adjudicatory branches headed by independent chairmen. A new audit and compliance authority to monitor spending will also be voted on.

Blatter’s re-election came after his only challenger, former Asian soccer head Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar, stood down a day before FIFA opened a probe into claims he paid $1 million in bribes to Caribbean voters. He denied the allegations.

Six months earlier the selection of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts was overshadowed by the removal of members of the executive board for allegedly offering to sell their votes. At one point half the board’s 24 members were accused of, or sanctioned for, wrongdoing.

Age Limits

Blatter enlisted an “independent governance committee,” headed by Swiss law professor Mark Pieth, to suggest reforms. They came up with several suggestions for FIFA’s executive board to consider, including those being looked at tomorrow.

The group’s proposals of age and term limits will be deferred to next year’s congress in Mauritius, as will a recommendation from the German federation that the U.K.’s permanent vice-presidency be removed.

“It is logical that we have postponed these political matters until next year because it was not possible to discuss with national associations and confederations,” Platini said.

Blatter yesterday told a meeting of CONCACAF, the North and Central America and Caribbean soccer body, that he’s not in favor of age limits. Hany Abou Rida, an executive committee member from Egypt, said he’s also opposed.

Blazer Ousted?

“For me, if you have the spirit, the health, why should you go?” he said in an interview. “You cannot limit anything, you should let the associations decide.”

FIFA will also be asked to discuss a special motion called by CONCACAF to remove U.S. official Chuck Blazer from its executive. The demand came after CONCACAF officials were told the New York-headquartered organization is subject to an Internal Revenue Service investigation because Blazer never filed a tax return for the group.

Members will also be asked to ratify the addition of Lydia Nsekera, a member of Burundi’s royal family, to FIFA’s board as its first female representative. Burundi is the only national association to be led by a woman.

“I think it’s on time and it’s absolutely positive for the image and activities of FIFA,” said Karen Espelund, a Norwegian who last year was invited to become the first woman on UEFA’s decision-making board. “This will be a sign for associations to bring more women in.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in Budapest via the London newsroom at 3677 or tpanja@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.