FIFA starts new reform process, but critics don't see big changes

Tue Sep 1, 2015 3:31pm EDT
 
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By Simon Evans

(Reuters) - Struggling with a major corruption crisis,  FIFA convenes the first meeting of a new reform committee on Wednesday. But few with knowledge of the matter - either inside or outside world soccer's governing body - expect it to come up with the robust proposals for structural change that are being sought by prosecutors and sponsors.

FIFA is facing unprecedented pressure to reform following the May indictment by U.S. authorities of nine current and former soccer officials on bribery-related charges. Many of them had served on FIFA's executive committee or in other FIFA positions.

But the committee's Chairman Francois Carrard lost credibility with those seeking more radical change when he told the Swiss newspaper La Matin Dimanche that criticism of FIFA President Sepp Blatter was "unfair" and that the corruption cases involve "only a few rogues." He also came under fire for claiming that soccer in the U.S. is "just an ethnic sport for girls in schools," as he questioned why the U.S. was investigating.

FIFA was forced to issue a statement distancing itself from Carrard, a former director general of the International Olympic Committee. Sources close to FIFA told Reuters that there were also some calls from within the organization for him to be replaced as head of the committee.

Carrard could not be reached for comment. FIFA was not immediately available for comment.

The committee's makeup also makes it less likely that it will be in any way transforming. The six regional soccer confederations, who currently control FIFA's troubled executive committee, also dominate the reform committee - appointing all of its 12 members, although some have chosen people from outside of the game. Most of the soccer officials indicted had been officials in the confederations for North and South America.

"It's hard to take seriously a reform committee of FIFA that is full of football and Olympic insiders and officials, all of whom have an implicit conflict of interest through their roles as well as a vested interest in maintaining as much of the status quo as they can get away with,” said Jaimie Fuller, a founder of the campaign group #NewFIFANow, which is seeking radical reform.

An attempt to get FIFA's sponsors - such as Coca Cola Co, Visa Inc and McDonald's Corp - to appoint two representatives to the committee failed. The sponsors decided they didn't want to be part of a body so dominated by the confederations, according to a source familiar with the situation.   Continued...

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