Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The panel advising FIFA on anti-corruption measures is in talks to add more members, said Mark Pieth, the Swiss law professor hired last month to lead the overhaul at soccer’s governing body.
Pieth announced today that he will be aided by a group of nine “governance experts and football insiders” including former U.K. Attorney General Peter Goldsmith and Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. Invitations to join the panel have also been extended to an Asian sponsor, an Asian marketing specialist and a club representative, though they have yet to reply, said Pieth, who declined to name the three.
The governance committee led by Pieth will advise FIFA on how to reorganize and implement anti-corruption controls after a year of turmoil in which several executives were found guilty or accused of wrongdoing during the selection process for the $4 billion World Cup and FIFA’s presidency. Pieth was not hired to “police” the past and his advice is non-binding, he said.
“The main emphasis is doing something fast from now until March,” Pieth said today in a telephone interview from Basel, Switzerland. “We have no decision power, so we have to convince” FIFA.
Two of the nine governance committee members, Gulati and Lydia Nsekera, the president of the Burundi football federation, are part of FIFA. “A large part of the problem is within the member associations,” said Pieth, adding that Nsekera and Gulati will advise on changes for the associations.
Gulati led the failed U.S. bid to host the 2022 World Cup, which was won by gas-rich Qatar last December. The bid process was marred by corruption allegations and the suspension of two members investigated for vote-selling.
Other members, mainly governance experts, include Alexandra Wrage, president and founder of TRACE, an international non-profit association working with companies to raise their anti-bribery compliance standards; and Michael Hershman, a corruption monitor who helped Siemens AG in 2008 to set up compliance monitoring after a bribery scandal.
Transparency International, a global anti-corruption watchdog that had been in talks with FIFA President Sepp Blatter since July 25, cut its ties with the organization earlier this month over growing skepticism about the reform plans, questioning Pieth’s independence.
Football Supporters Europe, which has affiliations with fan groups in 38 countries, also turned down an invitation to join the governance committee because of doubts over its credibility, the group said in a statement on its website yesterday.
“I probably underestimated the amount of explaining that is needed,” said Pieth, who is hopeful both organizations may still join the committee’s efforts. Transparency International and FSE were the only parties who declined to join the committee, Pieth said.
FIFA paid 120,000 Swiss francs ($128,000) for a report entitled “Governing FIFA” that Pieth wrote as a blueprint for the overhaul, which was paid to the University of Basel and the Basel Institute on Governance, Swiss newspaper Handelszeitung reported on Dec. 7, without saying how it got the information. FIFA additionally pays a daily allowance of 5,000 francs, which also is paid to the university or the institute, and not directly to Pieth, according to the paper. Pieth declined to comment on the amounts paid, confirming he does not personally benefit from the payments.
It is up to the committee members if they want to claim an allowance for their work, said Pieth, a professor at the University of Basel. FIFA will set up an audited account to pay for expenses.
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, has said he’d walk away from the project if he thinks FIFA isn’t serious about implementing change.
The release of key documents from a court case relating to alleged bribes paid by now-defunct sports-marketing firm ISL is “vital” to understanding the risks FIFA faces as an organization, Pieth said.
The documents’ release, which was on the agenda at FIFA’s executive committee meeting in Tokyo yesterday, was postponed after a legal challenge from one of the named parties, Blatter said on Dec. 6.
“The executive has confirmed that it will be released later,” FIFA said in a statement on its website today.
The British Broadcasting Corporation has reported that the document implicates former FIFA President Joao Havelange and the 2014 World Cup organizing committee President Ricardo Teixeira, who has asked for a leave of absence until the end of next month. Havelange resigned as an International Olympic Committee member earlier this month.
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