'Fifa's not transparent on corruption'

Longtime International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound claimed on Monday that Fifa is not being transparent about the extent of corruption within the organisation and lacks the will to clean up football.

Having led the IOC’s inquiry into the Salt Lake City bidding scandal, Pound believes Fifa is in the midst of a deeper crisis that needs to be resolved to protect the integrity of the sport.

The Montreal lawyer’s criticism of Fifa came in a speech to a conference in Germany two weeks before Fifa president Sepp Blatter plans to present the anti-corruption reforms demanded after a year of bribery scandals within his executive committee.

“Fifa has fallen far short of a credible demonstration that it recognises the many problems it faces, that it has the will to solve them, that it is willing to be transparent about what it is doing and what it finds, and that its conduct in the future will be such that the public can be confident in the governance of the sport,” Pound said. “At the moment, I do not believe that such confidence exists or would be justified if it did.”

Blatter’s pledge to clean up Fifa came after being re-elected unopposed in June for a fourth and final presidential term.

Blatter’s only election rival, Fifa executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam, withdrew days before the vote when allegations surfaced that he tried to bribe Caribbean voters. The Qatari has since been banned from football for life. The bribery scandal also exiled Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, who resigned rather than face an ethics hearing.

Two more Fifa executive members, Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii, were suspended last November after allegations of vote-trading in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests. Several more of Blatter’s colleagues, who will vote on approving his reforms, have survived unproven allegations concerning bribes, unethical favours and vote-trading deals.

“When I compare [the Salt Lake City] firestorm of media attention to the relatively benign, again with certain exceptions, treatment of the remarkable conduct of Fifa and certain of its executives, I am astonished,” Pound said. “This is a far more serious and far more extensive problem for the world’s most popular sport than the relatively narrow conduct, improper as it was, of a few IOC members.”

Borrowing credibility
Ten IOC members resigned or were expelled for accepting cash, scholarships and other inducements from leaders of Salt Lake City’s winning bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

It led to a series of reforms, including a ban on member visits to bid cities, age and term limits for members and limits on gifts.

The ethics rules were rewritten by a panel that included former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and Pound believes Fifa’s reforms will only appear credible if outside parties are involved. Kissinger has been approached by Fifa, but Blatter has been mocked for asking opera great Placido Domingo for assistance.

“The IOC was able to borrow credibility from these independent third parties, in whom the public already had confidence and whose judgment in approving the reform package put forward could be relied upon and whose assertions that the IOC was serious, carried far more weight than similar statements made by the IOC itself,” Pound said. “If I were an independent adviser to Fifa today, I would counsel it to take similar measures.

“The risk of not doing so is that no one will believe the outcomes of whatever process it may be implementing. A good part of the problem, of course, is that we simply do not know what is being done.”

Addressing the Play the Game conference in Cologne, Germany, Pound said there have been “massive failures of organizational governance” in sport as well as the world of business and politics.

“If public confidence in the integrity of competition is lost, the public will look elsewhere for its entertainment and will no longer support manipulated competitions,” the former World Anti-Doping Agency president said in a speech published on the conference website.—Sapa-AP

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