Sport, World

Fifa reform begins: Four things we’ve learned so far

Fifa reform begins: Four things we’ve learned so far

We still don’t know who unnamed co-conspirator number 18 in the Fifa scandal is and the only thing that’s being done by reform committees is forming more reform committees. Fifa isn’t going to change its ways any time soon. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

There is a saying in Afrikaans which directly translates to: slowly but surely, the tortoise will win the cup. It refers to slow progress still being a sort of move towards victory. If slow and steady is the way, then Fifa are setting a new record for a glacial pace. On Wednesday last week, Fifa convened the first meeting of a new reform committee, but they were sketchy on what had transpired there. Fifa simply said that the committee “enjoyed two days of intense and fruitful discussions” but failed to provide any insight as to what proposals had been discussed. This is hardly a surprise.

Following an indictment from US authorities in May and the arrest of several high-ranking officials, sponsors and stakeholders have pushed hard for reform proposals to be put forward. But, and with Fifa there is always a but, the reform committee’s chairman, Francois Carrard, told a Swiss newspaper that the criticism directed at Fifa president Sepp Blatter was “unfair”. He also reckons the corruption involved “only a few rogues” and, just to make sure he really hammered home his complete lack of credibility, he said that in the US soccer is “just an ethnic sport for girls in schools”, thus, their investigation is questionable.

These are the dizzy heights of sheer ignorance to which Fifa have ascended as the reform progresses, ahead of next year’s presidential election. As the tortoise of reform starts crawling towards the first lap flag, here are five things we have learned so far.

Prince Ali doesn’t know if he’ll stand for presidency yet

Prince Ali bin al-Hussein is not sure whether he’ll put himself through the rigmarole of running for the Fifa presidency yet. Having denied Blatter a majority in the first round of voting in May he stepped aside before the second round. Blatter, though, announced his plans to quit four days later as separate US and Swiss criminal inquiries into soccer corruption escalated. The Prince is currently still consulting federations. The deadline for all candidates to gain the five nominations to stand for elections is 26 October and the Prince thinks Fifa has hit a crisis point. Newsflash, Prince, this crisis point was reached ages ago, but at least we’re making progress to recognising it now, eh?

Fifa’s sponsors weren’t interested in getting involved in the reform committee

When the proverbial paw-paw hit the fan during Fifa’s congress earlier this year and the reform committee was formed, sponsors were loud and clear about wanting change. Contracts teetered on the edge and for the first time ever it seemed as if the big corporates who pour money into the world’s biggest game might actually have some balls and take a stand. However, when the reform committee was appointed and there was a push for sponsors to have two representatives on the committee, they did not want to get involved. Sources say they did not want to be involved in a committee that was so dominated by federations.

The reform committee is basically made up of the executive committee

When it comes to reform, independence is crucial, but here’s the thing: the six regional soccer confederations, who currently control Fifa’s troubled executive committee, also dominate the reform committee. Although the reform committee has a few people from outside of the game, all 12 committee members come from the troubled confederations. When the current committee was appointed, there was already a reform process in place. That was led by Domenico Scala, independent head of Fifa’s audit and compliance committee. Scala was present at these “fruitful” discussions, but his ability to influence decisions remain questionable. Some are saying that Fifa and those in charge might be suffering from “reform fatigue”, not exactly encouraging when there is no way of telling how deep the rot goes.

Nobody really believes things will change

Let’s be honest, after the avalanche of baddy-catching a few months ago, not much has changed or moved along. Of course these things take time, but for now, it seems the aim of the game is to protect self-interest. When Scala presented a nine-point reform plan to Fifa’s executive committee earlier this year, the response was to set up a new reform committee. Scala’s plans included a suggestion that the ruling body be split into two separate committees which would weaken the power of confederations. Until those arrested by authorities are actually tried and convicted, it seems unlikely that any reform will come from the reform committee. DM

Original photo: FIFA President, Swiss Joseph Sepp Blatter speaks during a press conference during the 18th edition of the “Sepp Blatter Fussballturnier”, in Ulrichen, Switzerland, Saturday, August 22, 2015. EPA/LAURENT GILLIERON


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