FIFA Anti-Graft Adviser Stays as Key Proposals Rejected

FIFA’s anti-corruption adviser said he won’t “rush to any decisions” about quitting his post even though the global soccer body’s executive failed to back several proposals he described as essential.

Law professor Mark Pieth was chosen two years ago to lead the 13-member Independent Governance Committee after corruption allegations linked to World Cup bidding in 2010 and the organization’s presidential election a year later.

After a meeting of its executive board today, Zurich-based FIFA unveiled changes to the way it will be governed, including ending the right for Britain to have a vice-president, and will ask Congress to vote on term and age limits for executives, a measure put forward by Pieth. The group’s 209 members will vote on the issues in May.

The board didn’t include other items recommended by the Swiss academic such as centralized system for integrity checks, confirmation of FIFA’s executive board by all its members, co- option of independent board members and publication of executive pay. Pieth said he’ll push for further changes before considering his future.

“I think whether I take that decision now or at the end of May doesn’t make so much difference because there are still a lot of options open,” Pieth said in a telephone interview, minutes after FIFA held a press conference to announce its proposals. “We are still working, and theoretically it’s still a possibility that national associations and confederations bring aspects that have been thrown out back into play.”

‘Counselor’

German official Theo Zwanziger, who heads FIFA’s group responsible for changing the statues, said it was normal that Pieth wouldn’t get his own way on everything.

“He’s just a counselor,” Zwanziger said at a press conference today. “Since when can a counselor implement 100 percent of what he wants?”

FIFA, which today also announced revenue of $1.2 billion for 2012 and a 7 percent increase in cash reserves to $1.4 billion, will ask members to vote on the proposals when they attend the group’s annual meeting. They won’t have a chance to decide on the composition of FIFA’s executive board, which has been accused of graft dating back decades to an agreement with former marketing partner ISL and more recently to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

Although President Sepp Blatter, in the top job since 1998, has often complained about the way his board is chosen, FIFA rejected proposals that would have required each official to be confirmed by its congress. Instead the status quo will remain, whereby confederations host elections for seats on FIFA’s executive, a system supported by European soccer’s governing body UEFA.

‘Buddies Are Elected’

“They are trying to make sure their buddies are elected,” Pieth said, adding that the changes made by FIFA since Blatter announced in 2011 a two-year process to reform the organization were “middle of the road.”

Pieth said he wasn’t surprised by the pace of change, or the resistance to it from some members.

“You can’t expect things will change from bloody bad to bloody good in one or two years,” he said. “That would be naïve.”

FIFA rejected calls for reform for years before finally addressing the issue of corporate governance following criticism in 2011 from sponsors of its $5 billion World Cup when the only challenger to Blatter’s presidency was accused of trying to bribe voters.

Pieth’s independent advisory group, which also includes former U.K. attorney general Peter Goldsmith and U.S. soccer head Sunil Gulati, will meet April 16 for a strategy meeting.

Illicit Payments

The group will also examine the results of an investigation by FIFA’s ethics body into whether officials other than former President Joao Havelange and ex-board member Ricardo Teixeira profited from payments from the now defunct ISL marketing company. A Swiss court revealed Havelange and Teixeira, his former son-in-law, received as much as $22 million from ISL.

Pieth said he’ll also be speaking with UEFA, and had assurances from its president Michel Platini that he wasn’t trying to block changes. UEFA in January issued a declaration that rejected many of the IGC’s recommendations.

“Platini is moving away from blocking,” Pieth said. “It’s the Spaniards, they are the problem, and the British and Germans are siding with them.”

The UEFA declaration on FIFA reforms stated any integrity checks on prospective FIFA officials should be done at regional level, and that candidates for FIFA’s presidency should face no age limits and be connected to national associations, a position rejected by Pieth but included in the reform proposals today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in London at tpanja@bloomberg.net

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

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