Fifa’s elections should be transparent, says expert

Fifa should consider suspending officials who are under criminal investigation as part of its effort to clean up the organisation, an independent anti-corruption expert — hired by the football body — said on Wednesday.

Swiss professor Mark Pieth said Fifa should also examine ways to make the election of its presidents more transparent and impose term limits for officials to avoid entrenched loyalties resulting in favours being swapped.

“We are talking about serious stuff here and not everybody will like this,” Pieth said at Fifa headquarters as he presented a preliminary report containing proposed reforms.

Calls have grown for Fifa to tighten its ethics rules following allegations of bribe-taking by senior officials, including executive committee members.

Prosecutors in Brazil have said they will investigate Fifa executive member Ricardo Teixeira for money laundering and tax crimes. Teixeira, who is the head of the 2014 World Cup organising committee, has also been linked to a bribery scandal at Fifa’s former marketing partner ISL, which owned World Cup television rights until its 2001 bankruptcy.

Coaching a troubled squad
Pieth said it would be up to Fifa to decide whether to accept the proposals his team plans to submit before the annual members meeting in May.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter said on Tuesday that he intended to honour his promise to members and governments to reform the structure of the organisation and make it more transparent.

Pieth, whose previous jobs have included investigating the UN’s oil-for-food scandal in Iraq and advising the Swiss government on new laws to combat money laundering, said he saw his role akin to that of coaching a troubled squad.

“We are coaches in bringing them back to the road of virtue,” Pieth said, adding that he wouldn’t be looking too closely at the past.

Pieth said claims surrounded the rigging of votes to host the World Cup and other allegations needed to be investigated but not by his committee.

Behaving ethically
“I have to take a decision,” Pieth said. “I either go into the past or into the future.”

Pieth said Fifa should limit the mandates of its leading officials and check up regularly to ensure they behave ethically.

Soccer’s governing body was also open to conflicts of interest in its relationship with its 208-member associations, said Pieth.

“Fifa should consider introducing regular due diligence checks by the ethics committee on elected members of its bodies,” said the report.

‘Preventative measures’
“A regulation should specify cases of incompatibility with the Fifa function. The regulation should also define the procedure and clarify under which circumstances an official would be temporarily suspended from his function.”

Pieth has recently been named to head Fifa’s independent good governance committee, set up as a response to recent corruption scandals which have plagued the governing body.

“Fifa is answerable to its 208-member associations who in turn are recipients of funding from Fifa and maybe financially dependent on these funds,” added the report.

“Additional preventive measures ensuring transparency and accountability in its relations with members should be taken in the area of financial contributions for the development of football in countries and regions.” — Reuters

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