FIFA disowns 'girls in schools' and Blatter comments by reform chief

Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:39pm EDT
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By David Ingram and Simon Evans

(Reuters) - FIFA on Thursday disowned comments made by the head of its reform committee, who had questioned why American authorities were investigating corruption in soccer, which he described as "just an ethnic sport for girls in schools" in the U.S.

The comments by Francois Carrard, the recently appointed independent chairman of FIFA's 15-person reform committee, were published on Sunday by the Swiss newspaper La Matin Dimanche. They quickly drew criticism from some of those seeking robust reforms of FIFA, who accused Carrard of not taking his new job seriously.

Soccer's world governing body said in a statement to Reuters that Carrard was not speaking on the organization's behalf. "Any comments by individuals associated with FIFA with respect to the ongoing investigations and the state of U.S. football should be seen as personal views and do not reflect the views or position of FIFA," it said.

As well as questioning why U.S. authorities spend time on the probe given his perception that soccer has a very limited appeal to Americans, Carrard said FIFA President Sepp Blatter had been treated unfairly and that corruption in the sport was limited to only a few rogue officials.

U.S. authorities in May announced the indictment of nine current and former soccer officials, many of whom had FIFA positions, and five sports marketing executives. Prosecutors said the 14 corrupted the sport by agreeing to more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks for media and marketing rights.

Carrard's comments and the sharp response from FIFA's Zurich headquarters demonstrate the deep rifts that exist within the organization and its affiliated bodies, indicating that making any radical changes in FIFA will be a very difficult process.

FIFA also said in its response that it sees the ongoing investigations by U.S. and Swiss authorities as key to its reform plans and that it was cooperating with authorities.

The statement continued: "The growth of football and the increased participation levels in the U.S. have been tremendous and demonstrate the nation's passion for the game. FIFA continues to work tirelessly to support the global development of the game in partnership with all of our 209 member associations."   Continued...

The logo of FIFA is seen in front of its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland July 20, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann