Willingness to change must translate into swift action
Transparency International (TI), the anti-corruption organisation, calls on world football's governing body, FIFA, to carry out comprehensive governance reforms overseen by a group composed of representatives from outside FIFA (elder statesmen, sponsors, media and civil society) and inside football (federations, clubs, professional leagues, players, women’s football, referees, supporters) in a way that ensures its independence.
The proposed group would watch over an independent investigation of existing corruption allegations and the introduction of new procedures to ensure transparency and good governance, such as term limits for senior positions and a conflict of interest policy, with external figures present in bodies that make major decisions.
TI has called on FIFA to take similar steps before, but developed its advice more specifically after FIFA showed a new willingness to change: asking for advice on anti-corruption policies and providing more information about its financial management and governance structures. This has allowed TI to provide detailed recommendations on governance issues targeted to the highest echelons of FIFA.
“FIFA says it wants to reform, but successive bribery scandals have left public trust in it at an all-time low. Working with an oversight group – taking its advice, giving it access, letting it participate in investigations – will show whether there is going to be real change. The process has to start now,” said Sylvia Schenk, senior advisor on sport to TI.
TI's eight-page recommendation document, Safe Hands: Building Integrity and Transparency at FIFA, is based on years of experience providing tools for companies and institutions that want to become more transparent and less vulnerable to corruption.
Reforms should have global backing
Because of the special nature of FIFA, meaningful reform requires everyone who has a stake in the game to join the debate and increase the pressure for reform, including supporters, bodies representing clubs and players, and the sponsors.
With its unprecedented reach, political clout and enormous worldwide social influence, FIFA is answerable only to national football officials from 208 countries. TI is therefore also sending the recommendations to national football federations in countries where it has chapters, calling upon those federations to support reform.
“Leaders in the world of sport have a particular responsibility to behave with integrity, not just because sports like football face corruption challenges such as match-fixing, but because sport provides role models for people everywhere, especially young people,” said Schenk.
TI prepared the FIFA recommendations after bribery allegations and a lack of transparency marred FIFA’s presidential elections in June 2011, as it did the selection of the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in December 2010.
“When an organisation says it wants to change, TI stands ready to provide constructive advice. Now that we have laid out clear, straightforward steps, it’s up to FIFA to prove its commitment to transparency and accountability,” said Schenk.
TI’s recommendations reflect good practice in the business world, and are drawn from existing documents such as TI's Business Principles for Countering Bribery and reporting guidance drawn from the section of the United Nations Global Compact related to fighting corruption.
Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.
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