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Reforming FIFA: Blatter’s Red Is Just The Start

Written by Peter Van Veen on Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Reforming FIFA will take more than Sepp Blatter’s resignation.  Collective action from all parties is the only way to kick corruption out of the organisation.


Last Friday, 29 May, with the world watching, and despite arrests of some of his top officials only days earlier, Sepp Blatter was re-elected as president of FIFA.

Mr Blatter’s statement after his election that the current FBI corruption prosecutions were motivated by sour grapes on the part of Britain and the USA did not give any confidence that Mr Blatter saw this as FIFA’s Salt Lake City moment.

We applaud Mr Blatter’s change of heart and his stepping down is an important first step.    We believed then and still do now, than only with new management can FIFA start to re-build its credibility. 

In any organisation, a culture of integrity starts at the top of the organisation and FIFA is no different.  How do we teach children about fair play or train club officials and players on how to prevent match-fixing if those at the very top are setting such a poor example?

There is a lot more to do.

We published detailed recommendations for reform at FIFA as long ago as 2011.  Most of these have either been half-heartedly adopted or not at all. 

It isn’t only Mr Blatter who should go sooner rather than later (he hasn’t actually left yet).  Given FIFA had committed to reform itself 4 years ago and has done so little and what little it has done, has been done so badly, why should we now expect the same management to tidy things up now?

For example, Mr Blatter’s most senior colleague on the ExCo has been implicated in the ISL scandal and reprimanded by the IOC as a result happens to be in charge of the Finance Committee.  This is not a recipe for credible reform.  Only a committee of truly independent experts can reform FIFA. 

It is important to note that reforming FIFA itself is only the start..  There is no point arguing about reforming the voting system for example (although making it open and transparent would be a good start) if so many are still motivated to vote purely on the basis of personal interests.  The entire way world football is governed needs to be reviewed including at the FIFA Confederations and National Football Association level.

Those who support FIFA financially need to keep the pressure up to affect real, meaningful reform.  These include sponsors and FIFA’s commercial “partners” as we have written previously.  FIFA’s approach to ethics has clearly been out of line with the values these companies state they hold dear.

Others that put a lot of money in FIFA’s coffers are the broadcasters.  They too need to take their responsibility in keeping the pressure up on FIFA.  Most are doing great work reporting on the current corruption scandal but the two cannot be seen as entirely separate.  Individually and certainly collectively broadcasters have the power to help in reforming FIFA if they choose to exercise it. 

FIFA and its officials should continue to be scrutinised by relevant prosecuting authorities globally.  We ask law enforcement agencies to investigate fully all allegations of corruption at FIFA and at the top elsewhere in Football.  There have been many allegations over many years but until last week, we have not seen many prosecutions.

We also ask those that have information relevant for prosecutors to proactively volunteer this to the authorities.  We very much welcome the recent announcement that leading UK banks will be looking into how the banking system was used to facilitate alleged FIFA corruption.   We ask the banks to continue to cooperate fully with the authorities and help bring the corrupt to justice. 

More can be done in the UK as well.  Transparency International is working on a Global campaign called “Unmask the Corrupt.” In the UK we are looking at stopping all the ways that corrupt money is laundered (for example buying property, or cars, or even football clubs).   By making it increasingly more difficult for corrupt officials to spend their money here we are also doing our bit.

Finally, we believe that it is only through collective action can we affect real change at all levels of football.  This means that football associations, player unions, clubs, sponsors, tournament organisers, supporter organisations and civil society organisations like ourselves need to work together to bring the governance of football firmly into the 21st Century.

Click here to read Transparency International’s list of seven steps that FIFA should implement to eliminate corruption at the heart of the organisation.

To follow Transparency International’s work on corruption in sport access the webpage here and hashtag #sportintegrity on Twitter 


Read 1090 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 12:18

Peter Van Veen

Peter is the Director of TI-UK's Business Integrity Programme. You can follow him on Twitter @pvanveen

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