How to fix FIFA: Ex­perts say agency needs out­side re­former


Sepp Blat­ter thinks FIFA can re­form it­self. Anti-cor­rup­tion ex­perts say an in­sti­tu­tion in that much trou­ble won’t be able to clean it­self up with­out an out­sider.

The ar­rest of seven top soc­cer of­fi­cials in Zurich and Blat­ter’s res­ig­na­tion pro­vide an open­ing for trans­form­ing what Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional’s man­ag­ing direc­tor Cobus de Swardt termed FIFA’s “sor­did em­pire of cor­rup­tion.”

But any change clashes with the re­al­ity of pol­i­tics at FIFA: Its 209 mem­bers from Van­u­atu to Venezuela, and the pow­er­ful ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee are un­likely to act against their own en­trenched power and priv­i­leges.

Mark Pi­eth is a Swiss law pro­fes­sor and FIFA’s for­mer top anti-cor­rup­tion ad­viser. His work for FIFA ended last year with all of his key re­form pro­pos­als be­ing re­jected.

Pi­eth wants Blat­ter to go now — not in seven to 10 months af­ter a new pres­i­dent is elected. He is call­ing for an in­terim care­taker from out­side to sta­bi­lize FIFA and re­store its cred­i­bil­ity. Only then should there be an elec­tion, which may not hap­pen for up to two years.

“Blat­ter can­not cling to his job now for months as a lame duck,” Pi­eth told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “There is no use in wast­ing time and get­ting into po­lit­i­cal games. You don’t step down in bits and pieces.”

Pi­eth sug­gested “some­one on the out­side, but some­one who knows the in­side” as the care­taker. He men­tioned for­mer Ger­man foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Theo Zwanziger or Su­nil Gu­lati, the head of the U.S. Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion.

He also said Gu­lati might be a strong can­di­date for the long-term pres­i­dency.

“It has to be some­body out of the midst foot­ball, but some­one who is not tainted by the for­mer sys­tem,” Pi­eth said. “It shouldn’t be one of th­ese old hands be­cause they will be im­me­di­ately in great trou­ble again and find them­selves dis­cred­ited.”

This won’t please the pre­sumed fron­trun­ners — Michel Pla­tini, head of the Euro­pean fed­er­a­tion UEFA, or Issa Hay­a­tou, pres­i­dent of the African fed­er­a­tion.

A se­lec­tion of ideas for chang­ing FIFA.

Alexan­dra Wrage, Pres­i­dent of


Wrage was part of an In­de­pen­dent Gov­er­nance Com­mit­tee at FIFA be­fore resigning in 2013.

“Blat­ter wanted to ap­pear to be a re­former,” she said in an email. “I don’t be­lieve he was se­ri­ous about re­form then, and it’s a bit ab­surd to hear him talk­ing about his com­mit­ment to ‘push through’ re­form mea­sures in the next few months that he re­jected a few years ago.”

Wrage also sup­ports a short-term care­taker from out­side.

She calls for im­me­di­ate re­stric- tions on “the giv­ing or re­ceipt of gifts and lav­ish hos­pi­tal­ity.” And she wants lead­ers to have a “one­time chance” to dis­close con­flicts of in­ter­est.

“There­after, there should be zero tol­er­ance for con­flicts that come to light,” she said.

Wrage is push­ing for at least two ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­bers “from out­side the soc­cer world.”

“This is a tightly knit club and its mem­bers have ben­e­fited enor­mously from the sta­tus quo,” she said. “It will take seis­mic change to re­store FIFA’s rep­u­ta­tion and there is no cer­tainty we’ll see that. There’s a very real risk that we’ll have an­other pres­i­dent a lot like Blat­ter who owes his po­si­tion to many of the same peo­ple.”

Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional

Trans­parency has is­sued seven rec­om­men­da­tions.

One key is that FIFA dis­close of­fi­cials’ pay, ex­penses and de­tail how money is spent.

Na­tional fed­er­a­tions also should pub­lish how much money they get from FIFA, and how it is spent.

Trans­parency also calls for term lim­its for ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­bers and asks spon­sors to “take col­lec­tive ac­tion to pres­sure FIFA ... to meet the high­est stan­dards of com­pli­ance and ethics.”

It also asks for “tougher and more trans­par­ent com­pli­ance stan­dards in TV-rights com­pa­nies.”

Domenico Scala

Scala is the in­de­pen­dent Chair­man of FIFA’s Au­dit and Com­pli­ance Com­mit­tee. Scala spoke the day Blat­ter re­signed and listed pri­or­i­ties for change. He said “noth­ing will be off the ta­ble” in re­form­ing FIFA.

He also fo­cused on the struc­ture of the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. He said mem­bers should un­dergo “in­tegrity checks,” a move that has al­ready been re­jected by FIFA’s mem­ber con­fed­er­a­tions.

He said many ques­tion FIFA’s trans­parency. He said FIFA should pub­li­cize the “com­pen­sa­tion of the pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­bers.”

Peter Alegi, Michi­gan State


Peter Alegi, a his­to­rian at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity who has stud- ied sports gov­er­nance, said a quick exit by Blat­ter in­creases the chances for change.

“If the noose tight­ens more on Blat­ter, if it reaches a lot of top FIFA ex­ec­u­tives, then I think there is a real pos­si­bil­ity that at least the old guard will be thrown out, if not im­pris­oned,” Alegi said.

He also called for more di­ver­sity in­side FIFA — women, for­mer ath­letes, fans and even aca­demics.

“Ev­ery­one who is now in FIFA comes from the same kind of class,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously there’ll all men, and with very few ex­cep­tions.” He is not ex­pect­ing a revo­lu­tion. “It’s likely there will a kind of mod­er­ate re­former who comes for­ward,” he said.

Other Thoughts

There have been sug­ges­tions to turn FIFA into a public com­pany. Oth­ers ar­gue the re­gional con­fed­er­a­tions are the prob­lem, es­pe­cially those in coun­tries with weak ju­di­cial sys­tems. Many of the re­gional con­fed­er­a­tions lack trans­parency and work like mini-FIFAs.

Roger Pielke Jr. of the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado pub­lished a study sev­eral years ago en­ti­tled: “How Can FIFA be Held Accountable?”

“FIFA demon­strated time and again that it has es­sen­tially no hi­er­ar­chi­cal, su­per­vi­sory, peer or public rep­u­ta­tional ac­count­abil­ity, and min­i­mal fis­cal ac­count­abil­ity,” Pielke wrote.

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