Labor unions, human rights groups step up calls for FIFA reform

Wed Jul 15, 2015 2:43pm EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prominent labor union and human rights groups on Wednesday stepped up public pressure on world soccer body FIFA, which is currently mired in a corruption scandal, to agree to be reformed and clean up its act through an independent process.

Transparency International, Avaaz and the International Trade Union Confederation said they were joining with a reform campaign called "#NewFIFANow" to press for rapid "independent reform of FIFA led by an eminent person."

The U.S. national labor union federation AFL-CIO, on Wednesday also sent letters to three major FIFA corporate sponsors, Coca-Cola Co, Visa Inc and McDonald's Corp asking them to support the call for reform.

"As a major sponsor, we urge you to demand an independent FIFA Reform Commission to restore transparency and integrity to international football, and ensure that major sporting events uphold the highest possible human rights standards," said Cathy Feingold, the AFL-CIO's international director, in the letters to the CEOs of the three American companies.

The human rights groups said they also support the creation of such a commission, whose task the groups said would include reviewing FIFA's current internal governance, membership and to conduct fresh elections.

"There has to be an independent reform commission and FIFA has to change. No more false dawns, no more scandals, no more dawn raids," said Transparency International Managing Director Cobus de Swardt, alluding to the arrest of seven FIFA officials or former officials by Swiss authorities on behalf of U.S. prosecutors in an early morning operation at a hotel in Zurich in May. Prosecutors have indicted nine soccer officials and five marketing executives on a range of bribery-related offences.

Alluding to allegations that workers involved in constructing facilities in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup had suffered abuses, Feingold said in the letters that "no worker should ever lose their life constructing stadiums or other infrastructure for such high-profile international tournaments, yet thousands of migrant workers in Qatar are at risk."

A representative of Amnesty International was expected to raise similar concerns at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday afternoon focusing on "governance and integrity of international soccer."

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Martin Howell in New York)

The logo of soccer's international governing body FIFA is seen on its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich