ZURICH (AFP) – World football’s governing body FIFA was on Wednesday urged to implement far-reaching reforms, starting with a revamping of the process for awarding World Cups.
FIFA’s new reform chief and Swiss academic Mark Pieth said the bidding process required a major overhaul, dubbing the current process “a mix of corruption risk and conflict of interest concerns”.
At a press conference in Zurich Pieth, a professor of criminology from Basel University, warned that his reforms might not meet with universal acclaim within the organisation.
However, they were a necessary step after months of controversy which began with last December’s votes for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments which ultimately saw two FIFA members banned for breaching ethics committee rules.
Then last May, England’s failed 2018 bid chief Lord Triesman alleged some FIFA members had indulged in unethical behavious during the campaign which ended with victory for Russia for 2018 and Qatar selected to stage the 2022 jamboree.
Pieth, chairing FIFA’s independent governance committee, recommended the FIFA president and executive members should serve time-limited mandates with independent members also appointed to the executive committee.
In his report Pieth’s states: “Past experience has demonstrated that the risks linked to these highly visible and politically sensitive decisions are actually a mix of corruption risk and conflict of interest concerns.”
He added that the existing environment fomented “suspicion that individuals either sold their vote or profiteered directly from the choice of venue.”
He added that a decision for FIFA’s Congress to take the final vote on World Cup hosting was “a step in the right direction from a corruption prevention perspective”.
Pieth admitted his plans would not necessarily meet with approval from all sides but stressed he expected to have his proposals taken seriously.
“Not everyone will like this. (But) I’m not too worried about it because to some extent this is a process. We are trying to change something, but of course there’s a bottom line, if we are seriously unhappy I can say ‘this is it, I’ve had it’.”
He noted that FIFA itself was pushing the reform process.
“There’s nobody forcing them to do it from outside, it’s their own membership within Congress. We’re like football coaches in guiding them back to the road of virtue.”
Pieth, 58, stressed that development projects should be carefully monitored to see that cash ended up being spent correctly.
A “discreet disclosure channel” hotline to report corruption should also be made available, said Pieth, with FIFA officials subject to due diligence to establish whether they are suitable for office.
He concluded it was vital to look to the future rather than become embroiled in endless recriminations from the past.
The overall composition of the governance committee will be unveiled on December 17.
But Pieth – previously chair of an OECD advisor on corruption in international financial markets and formerly a member of the independent inquiry committee into the Iraq Oil-for-Food Programme – said enacting any legal changes would have to wait until the next FIFA Congress meeting next summer.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced the creation of the governance committee on October 21.