FIFA: time to change

FIFA: time to change

With the World Cup due to kick off this week in Brazil, everyone, from sponsors and politicians to fans in the street, are calling for FIFA to tackle the corruption allegations that have dogged it for years, and specifically the decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Transparency International believes that if the organisation that runs football is seen to be corrupt, everyone loses. That is why FIFA needs to ensure that the Qatar decision was free from bribery and corruption. If there was bribery involved, Transparency International would consider it important for there to be a re-vote, in the same way that any contract won through corruption would be considered void.

Football allows billions of people to experience great emotion and learn the value of fair play and the importance of rules, and to develop respect for others. FIFA has the unique responsibility that comes with sports governance to lead from the top and protect the integrity of the game.

Governance at FIFA

FIFA belatedly started a governance reform process in 2011 despite a decade of corruption allegations. At the time Transparency International presented a roadmap to change, Safe Hands, and FIFA also appointed an Independent Governance Committee to advise on reforms.

Although FIFA has introduced some changes, and has called its reform process a success, it has been unable to institute key reforms – including greater independent oversight – that will help it win back trust. The IGC called the reform process incomplete.

Three things FIFA must do now

1. Publish in full the investigation into bribery allegations surrounding the voting for host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups

Michael Garcia, a US lawyer and head of investigations chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, has finished his investigations and will deliver his report to FIFA in September. He stressed to the FIFA Congress that his investigation is wide-ranging and has taken into account all the evidence available. However, if the investigation is considered a white-wash, FIFA will suffer a lack of credibility.

2. Institute term limits for FIFA senior executives

The FIFA Congress voted not to consider age limits or term limits for senior executives. This will allow Sepp Blatter, 78, who has been FIFA president since 1998, to seek another four year term in 2015. This stasis at the top only encourages the propensity for building up patronage networks.

In Safe Hands, Transparency International advised FIFA to introduce:

3. Introduce independent due diligence for senior posts in federations across the globe

FIFA adopted new due diligence rules for its members but background checks of leaders of its federations and its executive committee will be done by the organisation, not an independent body. This is not best business practice.

Sponsor pressure

image of sponsor materials

The continuing allegations of corruption have finally prompted FIFA’s sponsors to speak out. Six companies, including Sony, Adidas, Hyundai-Kia and Coca-Cola have demanded explanations of FIFA. These organisations pay upwards of a combined US$720 million for the right to be associated with the World Cup. They want to protect their investment and ensure their image is not tarnished through association.

Transparency International believes that sponsors will play an important role in pushing for better governance at all sports organisations, not just FIFA. The World Cup sponsors should follow up their words with continued pressure.

Broadcasters, who pay millions for the right to air FIFA events, should follow suit: the more economic pressure that is brought to bear, the more FIFA is likely to change.

But change will not come easily. Although FIFA has many vocal critics, the majority of its 209 member federations support President Sepp Blatter for a further four year term.

At the close of the Congress meeting on 11 June in São Paulo, Blatter announced that FIFA’s continued financial success means that member federations will each receive an additional US$750,000 between now and 2015 and the six regional confederations (known by their acronyms AFC, CAF, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, OFC and UEFA) would receive US$7 million apiece.

It is the members of the FIFA Congress who will vote next May on whether Blatter can continue in his role as president.

Match-fixing at the World Cup

FIFA has warned of the possibility of match-fixing in games where the result has no bearing on who advances in the competition. This could affect up to 16 matches played between 23-26 June.

Football betting has become a multi-billion dollar business and organised crime uses it to both make and launder money, even around the World Cup. Because of the advance warnings this year, it will be harder for criminals to fix matches.

Across the world, match-fixing has become a real threat to the integrity of football. Transparency International is working to raise awareness about match-fixing to help prevent it through education and training of the people most at risk: players, referees and people working in football.

Our project, Staying on Side, involved six Transparency International chapters in Europe – Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal and the UK – working in collaboration with the German Football League and the European Professional Football Leagues. The project, which ends in June, piloted education and prevention materials and held more than 50 workshops and events. It will publish a resource handbook of where to go for more information and materials later this month.

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

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