ZURICH (Reuters) - World soccer’s scandal-hit governing body embraced reform proposals on Tuesday that would prevent anyone from holding its presidency for longer than 12 years, or past the age of 74, while giving women more say in the running of the sport.
The recommendations were put forward by a Reform Committee set up by FIFA in July in response to investigations by U.S. and Swiss authorities into high-level corruption in soccer.
They were unveiled 12 days after FIFA suspended Sepp Blatter, the 79-year-old who has led it since 1998 and is under investigation in his native Switzerland on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation of funds.
“In order to restore confidence in FIFA, significant changes to FIFA’s institutional structure and operational processes are necessary to make them more transparent and accountable,” the Reform Committee said in a statement.
“Essential changes to the culture of FIFA are necessary to effect lasting change on the organization and to restore FIFA’s reputation so that it can focus on its mission: to promote football throughout the world”.
The crisis at FIFA, which began with the arrest of seven officials in a dawn raid on a Swiss luxury hotel in May, has tarnished the reputation of the sport and upset the powerful multinationals that sponsor its showpiece event, the World Cup.
FIFA’s Executive Committee said it welcomed the proposals, under which the committee would be replaced by a new ‘FIFA Council’ including at least six women, one from each region.
A full set of proposals will be produced at the next executive committee in December and then be put to FIFA’s congress on Feb. 26, where all 209 member associations will vote.
Domenico Scala, who heads FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, produced an eight-point reform plan last month, including 12-year term limits for elected officials, but it was unclear at that time if they would be voted on.
The February congress will also elect a successor to Blatter, in a contest that was thrown wide open when front-runner Michel Platini was suspended on Oct. 8 at the same time as Blatter.
Swiss authorities said in September they were investigating a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2.1 million) that Blatter made to Platini, but both men deny wrongdoing. Platini, a former French midfield star, says the money was for services he provided under contract over a number of years.
FIFA on Tuesday held open the possibility that Platini may still be able to run for president if he wins an appeal against his suspension.
The only other candidates to register so far are Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and former Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Nakhid. Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, the Asian soccer chief, said he had been urged to stand but was still gauging opinion.
FIFA has been criticized for its secrecy over salaries for its leaders, and the reform plan says those details should be made public. It also calls for more independent members of FIFA’s finance and development committees, and a fully independent audit and compliance committee made up of experts.
It said there should be increased positions for women in the new FIFA Council, with each of the six continental confederations to give “at least one voting FIFA Council seat for women”.
($1 = 0.9531 Swiss francs)
Additional reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Mark Trevelyan