Transparency International, an adviser to soccer’s governing body on anti-corruption reforms, has withdrawn its assistance because it doesn’t feel a special group tasked with creating reforms is “truly independent.”
Sylvia Schenk, senior adviser for sport, said the organization turned down an invitation to join FIFA’s outside governance committee because its chairman Mark Pieth is being paid by the soccer body and also after Pieth said he wouldn’t be looking at allegations of past wrongdoing.
“All members of the commission are supposed to be independent,” Schenk said in a telephone interview. “You can’t be independent if you have a contract with FIFA.”
Pieth said he was “cheesed off” by Schenk’s comments, adding it was common practice for companies to pay for outside auditors to evaluate their business practices. The professor of criminal law at Basel University declined to say how much he and his staff were being paid, saying it was the standard amount for such work. A FIFA spokesman wasn’t able to immediately respond to Schenk’s comments.
“We can’t start asking audit firms to do their job for free just to make sure they are independent,” Pieth said in an interview. “What you’ll get is something quite pathetic.”
Schenk said the funds needed for an independent body should be provided by a wider group including sponsors, broadcasters and national soccer associations. Pieth, who was chosen by the United Nations in 2004 to serve on a team examining alleged corruption in the Iraqi oil-for-food program, said he’d walk away from the project if he thinks FIFA isn’t serious about implementing change.
The soccer body has been forced into trying to reform its governance statutes following a year of turmoil in which several top executives have either been found guilty, or accused of wrongdoing, during the selection process for the $4 billion World Cup and the organization’s presidency.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter had been in talks with Schenk since July 25. Transparency International produced a report earlier this year highlighting areas of reform.
“I think Mrs. Schenk is playing a turf war here,” Pieth said.
Sponsors expressed concern after a vote-buying election scandal connected to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups led to the suspicion of two senior officials. Months later, Mohamed Bin Hammam, the only candidate to challenge Blatter for FIFA’s presidency, withdrew after being accused of offering $40,000 each to Caribbean soccer officials. He’s appealing a life ban, denying any wrongdoing. Several others have been given bans of up to two years. FIFA has promised to release documents in December naming officials who took payments from its former bankrupt marketing partner a decade ago.
“Yesterday we learned this commission is not dealing with the past, first step we said in our report is dealing with the past,” Schenk said.
Pieth, who was appointed to his role by Blatter, said the level of work needed meant he had to make a choice between dealing with the past and the future.
“I’m not being a policeman: others can do that,” he said. “If Mrs. Schenk wants to be the policeman, she can do that.”
Blatter said he expects the reforms to be completed by June 2013. FIFA doesn’t have to follow Pieth’s recommendations.