ZURICH (Reuters) - Outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter told his scandal-plagued federation’s 209 member associations on Thursday that failure to support reform would amount to a betrayal of millions of soccer fans.
Blatter’s comments came as FIFA’s executive committee began a two-day meeting where it was due to discuss a request to provide greater transparency around investigations into allegations of corruption.
The committee also will be given an update on the second of two reform processes which have begun since FIFA was plunged into the worst crisis in its 111-year history in May.
Soccer’s governing body has been in turmoil since 14 sports marketing executives and soccer officials, including several from FIFA, were indicted in the United States on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.
Seven of those accused were arrested by Swiss police in a dawn raid on a luxury Zurich hotel on May 27, two days before the FIFA Congress where Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term.
As pressure mounted on FIFA, Blatter made a shock announcement in early June that he would step down at an extraordinary Congress which will take place on Feb 26 in Zurich.
Last week, the problems took another twist when FIFA put secretary general Jerome Valcke on leave and requested a formal investigation into allegations against him. His duties have been taken over by his deputy Markus Kattner.
“I expect all member associations to fully support this reform process at the Extraordinary Congress in February,” Blatter wrote in his weekly column in FIFA weekly.
”To fail to do so would represent a betrayal of our institution, of football and of the millions of fans around the world that rightly expect the highest standards from those managing the game.
“Our goal must be to give FIFA, the institution, the opportunity to move forward next year and to build on the progress we have achieved in staging competitions and developing football around the world since 1904,” he added.
“If we do not act now, we will be putting all of that work at risk.”
Domenico Scala, head of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, presented an eight-point plan at the last executive committee meeting in July, which he hoped would be approved and put to the extraordinary Congress in February.
Instead, it was decided to set up a second reform committee under Francois Carrard, a Swiss lawyer and former director general of the International Olympic Committee, which met for the first time earlier this month.
Allegations of corruption are investigated by FIFA’s ethics committee, which is only allowed to report its final decisions and cannot name people who are under investigation.
Critics have regularly lambasted the in-house watchdog, and questioned its independence from the FIFA leadership, for refusing to give names and other data, even linked to well-known and widely reported cases.
However, the ethics committee has said it is following the code of ethics, which it has asked to be changed, a request which is expected to be discussed under the item “approval of amendments to the FIFA code of ethics.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar