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“Cronyism is crippling the beautiful game”

Just days before the start of the World Cup 2002, Transparency International calls on FIFA to open its books and to professionalise the organisation and financial management of soccer

Cronyism in world football is crippling the sport and undermining public confidence in the leadership of FIFA (the International Federation of Football Associations)," said Jeremy Pope, Executive Director of Transparency International (TI), the leading anti-corruption organisation.

Speaking upon the election on 29 May of Sepp Blatter for another four-year term as FIFA President, Pope said: "FIFA needs a complete overhaul, both in terms of transparent and accountable financial management, and the professionalisation of decision-making committees."

"It is not only the infighting between different FIFA officials, but the lack of clear answers to allegations of corruption and the failure to conduct an open audit of FIFA's accounts that have brought the beautiful game into disrepute," said Pope.

Speaking at a press conference earlier this month, Sepp Blatter explained a gift of USD 25,000 to an African referee with the words "I often give money to people who cry". Transparency International "urges FIFA to introduce a clear code of conduct on giving and accepting gifts, and an accompanying requirement for member countries' football associations and football officials to account for the money they receive," said Pope. "Instead of money to countries like Kenya going towards facilities and training for schoolchildren, the funds provided for football development often disappear without trace," he added.

The lessons learned by the European Football Federation, UEFA, when it implemented the "Project Force" reforms, now need to be applied to FIFA, in particular the professionalisation of the world sports body's management. "Soccer is now big money, and can no longer be left in the hands of amateurs," said Pope. He continued: "There is an urgent need for clearer reporting lines to professional managers, not just to committees packed by national football officials."

"Accountable and transparent procurement system needs to be put into place for larger contracts, such as the licensing of TV rights and the granting of contracts in the organisation of big events such as the World Cup," said Pope.

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Jeff Lovitt (Berlin)
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Jeremy Pope
Tel: +44 207 610 1400