Burundi’s Lydia Nsekera today became the first woman elected to the executive board of soccer’s governing body, FIFA.
Nsekera, 45, polled 95 votes for the four-year term, ahead of Moya Dodd of Australia (70 votes) and Sonia Bien-Aime, an official from the Turks & Caicos Islands (38 votes), at FIFA’s Congress in Mauritius. Both Dodd and Bien-Aime were appointed to the board for one-year terms after the balloting.
Nsekera was appointed to the executive committee a year ago on an interim basis as part of FIFA’s reform program. Delegates approved a new rule that adds a 25th seat on the executive committee that must be filled by a woman.
FIFA’s Congress was meeting this week as President Sepp Blatter tries to appease critics of the organization. Earlier this month, executive committee member Chuck Blazer of the U.S. was suspended for 90 days, becoming the latest high-ranking FIFA official to be punished because of accusations of graft. He denies the allegations.
Earlier this year, FIFA said its former president Joao Havelange and two other ex-board members took “not inconsiderable amounts” in bribes from its now-bankrupt marketing partner. On April 30, FIFA suspended another executive committee member, Vernon Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka, for eight years, citing “several breaches” of its ethics code.
Those attending this week’s Congress in Mauritius were unable to reach a consensus on proposals implementing age and term limits, and a vote was postponed to allow the executive committee to consider options.
“If we had voted today on the age limit and terms of office, our proposition would have been rejected as many confederations do not have age limits,” Blatter said at a press conference. “Without voting, we keep doors open. We will tackle the age limit and come back.”
Blatter said two-thirds of the committee voted to postpone the motions on limits.
The president said he was against age limits but would support a restriction on terms, saying the use of both wasn’t possible.
“We must know to whom this limitation will apply,” he said. “There must be either age limit or term of office. We can’t have the two together.”
FIFA’s decisions are a step forward, but much still needs to be done, said Mark Pieth, chairman of the body’s independent governance committee.
‘Not Yet Ended’
“The procedure is not yet ended,” Pieth said at a press conference. “I am however not worried. The real challenge is the implementation of the decisions.”
Pieth said he is “optimistic” that FIFA will publish the salaries of individual executives eventually.
Today, the executive committee approved rule changes that would punish clubs and players who racially abused opponents.
Jeffrey Webb, FIFA vice president and chairman of a new task force against racism, said punishments for first-time violators could include a warning, a fine or the playing of a match behind closed doors shall be applied.
“For reoffenders of serious incidents, sanctions such as point deductions, expulsion from a competition or relegation should be applied,” Webb said.