U.S. senators call for reforms of U.S. soccer body at FIFA corruption hearing

Wed Jul 15, 2015 5:46pm EDT
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By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. senators on Wednesday called for extensive reforms in the way soccer is run by both international and U.S. governing bodies, and questioned what current U.S. soccer chiefs knew about corruption in the global organization FIFA.

"The facts show there had to be either wilful ignorance or blatant incompetence on behalf of many of the members of this organization - that's true of U.S. Soccer as well," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the top Democrat on the Senate commerce subcommittee at a hearing it held on Wednesday to examine alleged corruption in FIFA and related soccer bodies.

There has been "a mafia-style crime syndicate in charge of this sport," said Blumenthal. He said that was "almost insulting to the Mafia ... because the Mafia would never have been so blatant, overt and arrogant in its corruption."

"I want to know what reforms U.S. Soccer Federation is planning to introduce ... what and when ... clearly there is an urgent need for such reforms," he added.

Dan Flynn, CEO of the U.S. federation, the sport's American governing body often referred to as simply U.S. Soccer, told the hearing he favored reforms in the sport's governance but that he had seen previous reform attempts "come up short."

Flynn said that while, over the years, he had experienced "discomfort" at unspecified developments he saw in soccer, personally he had no idea of the extent of alleged corruption in the sport until U.S. authorities in late May issued a sweeping criminal indictment of some of the sport's leading international figures.

But Blumenthal said: “U.S. Soccer had a responsibility to know. Either it knew or it should have known and the fans can judge which is worse."

Former U.S. soccer official Chuck Blazer, who was a FIFA executive committee member for 17 years, has been at the center of the corruption scandal. He has pleaded guilty to a series of offences related to bribery and is cooperating with authorities.   Continued...

Members of the media stand in front of the entrance of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, May 30, 2015.  REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann