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More change needed at FIFA says corruption body

FIFA should limit terms for senior officials, set up an independent group to clear up anti-corruption...

World Soccer Association FIFA's headquarters in Zurich. Picture: AFP

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FIFA should limit terms for senior officials, set up an independent group to

clear up anti-corruption allegations and "embrace transparency,"

corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) said on Tuesday.

TI said that, despite recent measures, world

soccer's governing body still gave the impression of being run "like an

old boys' network."

FIFA reacted swiftly to TI's findings,

issuing a statement which said: "The FIFA President already publicly

stated in October 2010 that FIFA would show zero tolerance towards any form of

corruption in football.

"While FIFA acknowledges that work

remains to be done, it is convinced that the measures which have been

implemented and the direction which has been taken will help to further

strengthen FIFA's governance in cooperation with the FIFA Executive Committee,

the member associations, the confederations and other FIFA stakeholders."

TI, however, said a great deal remained to be

done at FIFA and urged that a new anti-corruption group should be composed of

representatives from outside FIFA, such as elder statesmen, sponsors, media and

civil society, and from inside football, such as players, those involved in

women's football, referees and supporters.

"FIFA says it wants to reform, but

successive bribery scandals have left public trust in it at an all-time

low," said Sylvia Schenk, TI's senior advisor on sport.

"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."

Sepp Blatter, FIFA's 75-year-old president

re-elected for a fourth term in June, promised to create a new committee to act

as a watchdog, mentioning former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and

Spanish tenor Placido Domingo as possible members.

He has yet to announce further details.

In its report, the Berlin-based watchdog,

which issues a global league table of the least corrupt nations, said:

"FIFA is both a non-governmental, non-profit organisation and a global

company with huge revenues, unprecedented reach, political clout and enormous

worldwide social influence."

However, it said FIFA was accountable only

to its 208 member associations who elected the FIFA president and, in turn,

received handouts from soccer's governing body.

"This lack of mandatory accountability

to the outside world makes it unlikely that change will come either from within

the organisation or from the grassroots of the football organisations,"

the report added.

FIFA has been hit by a series of corruption

scandals in the last year.

Two executive committee members were banned

last November for allegedly offering to sell their votes in the contest to host

the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, subsequently awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Last month, Asian Football Confederation

chief Mohammed Bin Hammam was banned for life for allegedly trying to buy votes

in the June presidential election where he was a candidate.

Fellow executive committee member Jack

Warner, a leading FIFA powerbroker, quit after being put under investigation in

the same case.

MORE SCANDALS

All decisions were taken by FIFA's ethics

committee but TI said this did not go far enough.

"The lack of a fully transparent

investigation leaves the root of the problem untouched," it said.

"Similar scandals have hit FIFA before,

and without a comprehensive process that deals with all allegations from the

past, with consequences for anyone who has behaved unethically...and/or given

or requested bribes, the scandals are likely to recur."

It said the ethics committee hearing took

place behind closed doors and added: "The members of the ethics committee

are appointed by FIFA's executive committee, raising doubts about their

independence, and not all allegations discussed in the public have yet been

dealt with."

TI said FIFA needed to do more to improve its

reporting and accounting standards.

"The officials leading world football

still give the impression of operating as an 'old boy's network'.

"With only three presidents since 1961

and the current president in his fourth term, FIFA does not match standards for

rotation of top positions set by businesses or by other large

organisations."

Positions on the executive and finance

committee, currently unlimited, should be limited to two terms.

Listing a number of suggested improvements,

TI said: "A new era for FIFA requires a review of its internal governance

and the introduction of transparency and accountability into its

decision-making processes and operations.

"This is a critical step that FIFA must

take if it is to become a sustainable, accountable and transparent

organisation."

The report concluded: "Throughout its

history, the workings of football's governing body have been opaque. However,

people across the world, in all walks of life, are calling for an end to

'business as usual' and demanding accountability from those in power.

"If FIFA wants to rebuild trust it must

embrace transparency.

"Football's governing body must be an

example of the fair play that it promotes on the pitch."

In its defence FIFA said it had read and

welcomed the report, adding: "The FIFA President...insists that especially

after the FIFA Congress on 1 June 2011 FIFA remains committed to the task of

continuing to improve its organisation, with a strong focus on increasing

transparency and acting with zero tolerance against any form of

corruption."

It continued: "FIFA is pleased to note

that several of the best practices and recommendations made by the TI report

are already being implemented by FIFA, and that others have been approved by

the 2011 FIFA Congress for their implementation in the coming months."

FIFA said it was a transparent organisation,

publishing all its regulations, circular letters to members and principal

decisions on its websites and in other publications.

Timeline

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