/ 26 January 2018

Fifa names high rollers

Thriftless: Sepp Blatte
Thriftless: Sepp Blatte

A copy of a report into the state of Fifa, commissioned by Gianni Infantino after his election as president, shines a light on the murky ways of the old regime at world football’s governing body.

The 98-page Progress at Fifa: Status Report gives details of lavish spending, particularly by former president Sepp Blatter and his secretary general Jerome Valcke.

The report covers the period from 2006 to 2015, the year the Fifa corruption scandal exploded, and was put together by Swiss audit company BDO, which submitted it in October last year, though it has remained confidential.

BDO highlighted the lack of “a clear set of rules and regulations concerning expense reimbursement” resulting in payments “that would not be permitted under today’s guidelines”.

Without giving any names, the report says “two former members of the Fifa executive committee were reimbursed for expenses in the aggregate amount of over $780 000 and $390 000, respectively, incurred during only one year.”

Over a five-year period, “a former high-ranking Fifa official was reimbursed for travel expenses in the total amount of over $300 000”.

According to a source familiar with the report who was interviewed by AFP, that official was Worawi Makudi of Thailand, who has been suspended for five years for other misdeeds.

The late Chuck Blazer, an American member of the Fifa executive committee until he was accused of corruption in 2013 and turned FBI informer, is also singled out.

Although he was skimming millions of dollars from television rights contracts, as a United States court heard last year, Blazer did not scorn smaller scams. Having attended two Fifa events at the same venue a few days apart, Blazer was reimbursed for two return flights even though he had only made one. The nonexistent extra tickets cost $13 000.

The son of a former member of the executive committee obtained $15 000 in compensation and expenses for a Fifa event, which his father did not attend. The source identified the father as the late Isaac Sasso Sasso, from Costa Rica, who, according to Fifa, had one son, Alfredo.

The audit also highlights the lack of any “approval process for the use of private jets”, particularly by Valcke, who has since been suspended by Fifa. The association spent an average of $4.9-million a year on jets in 2010 and 2014, and $7.9-million in 2014 alone.

In 2016, the first year of Infantino’s reign, “spending on private jet flights dropped by 88%” compared with 2010-2014, the report says.

Until 2014, Blatter and Valcke each had sole control of an account into which Fifa paid money for them to donate to charities and organisations of their choice. The former president largely used the money to fund the “Blatter Foundation” in his hometown of Viege, Switzerland.

“There appears to have been little oversight over these accounts though they were accounted for in Fifa’s financial records,” the report states.

Between 2006 and 2014, “a high-ranking Fifa official” (who was Blatter) gave “over $2.5-million to numerous institutions, charitable organisations and his hometown”.

The report also highlights black-market sales of match tickets and the possibility of abusing the unsupervised funding of Fifa’s global development programmes.

The report welcomes a series of measures recommended by the reform committee on which Infantino served before his election, adopted by Fifa in February 2016.

“Considerable improvements have been made, or are in the process of being made, in the areas of governance, committees, compliance, finance, compensation policy, commercialisation of rights, funding for global football development, selection of the Fifa World Cup host and ticketing operations,” the report says.

But Fifa still faces criticism after replacing the leaders of its ethics committee, Hans Joachim-Eckert and Cornel Borbely, and sacking Miguel Maduro just eight months after he was appointed chairperson of the governance committee.

Maduro told a British parliamentary committee that Infantino interfered with the committee’s work, ignored rules and ultimately sacked him in order to maintain power.

On Wednesday, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg was debating sports governance and a report by MEP Anne Brasseur from Luxembourg, chairperson of its sports committee, which asserts that Fifa has not changed under Infantino.

The BDO report is more optimistic. “These reforms and improvements are still being completed, even though a wide range of measures has already been implemented. Many of the reforms described herein are unique in the world of sports governance and may also serve as a model for other sports organisations.” — AFP