MANAMA (Reuters) - The ruling council of world soccer’s governing body ousted chief ethics investigator Cornel Borbely and ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert on Tuesday in a move the pair labeled as “de facto the end of FIFA’s reform efforts”.
FIFA had issued a statement on Tuesday saying Colombian investigator Maria Claudia Rojas had been nominated as the new head of the investigatory chamber with Vassilios Skouris of Greece, a former president of the European Court of Justice, put forward as head of the adjudicatory chamber.
Several dozen soccer officials, mainly from Latin America, were indicted in the United States in 2015 on corruption-related charges, sparking the worst crisis in FIFA’s history.
German Eckert and Swiss Borbely were at the forefront of efforts to clear up corruption in the organization and had expressed a desire to continue the work beyond the end of their current mandates, which run until Thursday’s FIFA Congress.
But the decision not to nominate the pair for another term in their roles led to a strident response.
“The impending non-election will set the work of the Ethics Committee far back and is de facto the end of FIFA’s reform efforts. It must be assumed that entire FIFA will suffer from this decision in the medium and long term,” said a statement from Borbely and Eckert.
“The work of a credible and independent Ethics Committee is an important part of the FIFA reforms whose goal was to restore the trust of the public and other stakeholders.
“Since 2015 the Investigatory Chamber has carried out 194 investigations and the Adjudicatory Chamber has sentenced more than 70 officials,” the statement added.
Among the officials banned from the sport were former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Secretary General Jerome Valcke.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino was also investigated by the Ethics Committee but was cleared in August 2016.
Current FIFA senior vice-president Angel Villar Llona was fined by the committee in November, 2015, for failing to cooperate with an investigation into the contest to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The FIFA statement on the council’s decisions made no reference to Borbely or Eckert nor was there any explanation for their removal.
“The non-election will lead to long delays in current investigations and proceedings, and complicate the prosecution of violations of the Code of Ethics,” said the statement from the outgoing pair.
“It appears that the heads of FIFA have attached greater weight to their own and political interests than to the long-term interests of FIFA. They have accepted jeopardizing FIFA’s integrity, and, hence, the future of the game,” it said.
The nominations of Rojas and Skouris, along with other proposed heads of committees, will be put to a vote of the full FIFA Congress on Thursday.
The changes to the Ethics Committee follow the resignation of former reform and compliance chief Domenico Scala last year.
He argued that the independent committees had been undermined by changes made by FIFA president Infantino, who denied the accusation.
Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris