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FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the board of soccer’s ruling body may not agree on plans requiring them to reveal their salaries and introduce term and age limits, according to an official overseeing reforms at the organization.
Mark Pieth, a Swiss law professor who headed a 13-member committee that Blatter asked to improve corporate governance after graft allegations, said in a telephone interview some officials were uncomfortable with changes that affect them directly.
FIFA efforts to reorganize itself came after public and sponsor reaction to corruption allegations over bidding for the staging rights to its $4 billion World Cup and then Blatter’s re-election to a fourth four-year term in which he was the only candidate. His only rival Mohamed Bin Hammam quit a day before the organization last year investigated him for bribing voters in the Caribbean.
“It’s possible that some of the issues will not be accepted,” Pieth, who works at the Basel Institute on Governance and investigated corruption in Iraq’s oil-for-food program in 2004, said. “I am anticipating that and I have to reserve my judgment over whether it’s fundamental stuff or minor stuff.”
Blatter doesn’t reveal his salary. The 76-year-old has been either the general secretary or president of the soccer body for more than 30 years. Pieth’s group said pay should be decided by a remuneration committee and made public.
Last week, Blatter said a new ethics panel would be created with separate investigative and judicial arms headed by independent chairmen, something Pieth’s group advocated.
Only 22 of FIFA’s 24-member board could participate in the voting rights for the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 after two officials were suspended for offering to sell their support to undercover journalists. Since then almost half of the voters have either been sanctioned for or accused of breaching regulations. Pieth said it’s possible that the new ethics group could look into how Russia and Qatar secured staging rights for 2018 and 2022.
“The statute of limitations is 10 years,” Pieth said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Under the current system, allegations have to pass through the office of general secretary Jerome Valcke before they can be investigated. Valcke has avoided investigation himself on two occasions.
“The president and the general secretary have nothing to say about opening of investigations now,” Pieth said. “The new investigator will be totally autonomous in saying what and which investigations to start.”
Transparency International, which had been advising FIFA over reforms before quitting and criticizing the body’s effort, said it was “disappointed” with the how far the organization had committed to changing.
“Of course we all have our hopes and ideals but this organization will have to be convinced to change,” Pieth said. “There’s nobody above them to tell them what to do. You have to be realistic. Anything else is pretty naïve.”
Blatter has been president since 1998, an election that ended with his beaten opponent Lennart Johansson claiming foul play. Since then other scandals have emerged including the revelation that some senior officials took payments from its bankrupt former marketing partner ISL. The allegations have tainted the soccer body’s image and overshadowed the work it does in promoting the game around the world.
“Impunity is one of the real problems whatever outfit be it state or intergovernmental organization,” Pieth said. “If there are allegations and the allegations are credible and nothing happens that hurts and that makes people really annoyed and I understand that.”
Several newer officials have replaced executives who’ve been forced off or resigned from FIFA board in the past year. They may be more open to changes including knowing what its president earns, Pieth said.
Among the officials in Pieth’s group were Sunil Gulati, who headed the failed U.S. bid for the 2022 World Cup, and former U.K. attorney general Peter Goldsmith, who’s also a board member of Westfield Group, which is controlled by Frank Lowey, the chairman of Australian soccer. Australia lost out to Qatar in bidding for the 2022 World Cup.
All the officials on the panel declared their interests and Gulati was chosen because he knows “what it means to bid and what it means to bid without bribing,” Pieth said.
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