FIFA Ex-Co Preview - Reforms are Toughest Test of Blatter's Career

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Can Blatter deliver hard-hitting reforms that will root out corruption from within FIFA? Many FIFA observers think not. (Getty)
(WFI) FIFA president Sepp Blatter is set to unveil "radical" anti-corruption measures on Friday that will be compared to the IOC's far-reaching reforms following the Salt Lake City bribery scandal.

They will be announced after the FIFA Ex-Co's two-day meeting in Zurich that kicks off Thursday morning.

After his re-election for a fourth term at the FIFA Congress in June, Blatter promised: "Reforms will be made and not just touch-ups but radical decisions."

In his address, Blatter said: "We have been hit and I personally have been slapped. We have made mistakes but we will draw conclusions with the lessons learnt."

Now Blatter is under serious pressure to deliver on his commitment to root out corruption in FIFA and to both improve its governance and make the federation more transparent.

Failure to implement sweeping changes will incur the wrath of the international media and further undermine his leadership.

It is the toughest test of his 13 years at the helm of FIFA - and will define the legacy he leaves in 2015 when he steps down.

FIFA is still reeling from the worst crisis in its 107-year history.

Allegations of bribery tarnished the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process, FIFA and blackened Blatter's image. Further allegations after the December host city announcement that a number of executive committee members had accepted bribes in return for their votes for Qatar only added to his problems.

Blatter faced more woe in the run-up to the FIFA presidential election when former Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam and long-time ally Jack Warner were found to have colluded to bribe Caribbean football officials. The Qatari was handed a lifetime ban, but Warner quit before FIFA's ethics panel could sanction him.

Under Blatter's vow to clean-up FIFA, the Swiss is expected to overhaul the FIFA ethics committee and form a "solutions committee", a committee of wise men from outside the game to advise on corruption issues and important challenges facing football.

There is speculation he will also seek backing from his Ex-Co colleagues for a revamp of FIFA's ruling body to bring in representatives from clubs and leagues to sit alongside the confederation chiefs and FA leaders at football's top table.

Plenty for the 24-member FIFA executive to discuss. But the scope of the reforms remains a closely-guarded secret and there are no guarantees that all of them will be pushed through at the meeting.

But UEFA, European football's governing body, is keen for "concrete" anti-corruption measures to be approved this week to help restore the battered image of FIFA.

Inevitably, FIFA critics will draw parallels with how the IOC moved quickly to clean house and restore its image following the Salt Lake City bribery scandal.
Jim Boyce of Northern Ireland is one of three new FIFA VPs attending their first Ex-Co meeting (WFI)
Following the Winter Olympics scandal, ten IOC members quit or were banned for life for accepting cash or other bribes from the U.S. city's bid team. IOC reforms followed and the organization eventually rebuilt its reputation.

But Canadian IOC member Dick Pound doesn't hold out much hope of sweeping reforms at FIFA.

Speaking at the Play the Game conference in Cologne two weeks ago, he suggested the bribery scandals that have rocked FIFA were "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".

The Canadian blasted Blatter's handling of the World Cup and FIFA presidential bribery scandals.

"FIFA has fallen far short of a credible demonstration that it recognizes 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 told delegates.

"At the moment, I do not believe that such confidence exists or would be justified if it did."

Rio 2016 beach soccer, World Cup schedules

Also on the FIFA Executive Committee agenda may be Blatter's proposal to get beach soccer into the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Blatter and Brazil 2014 chief Ricardo Teixeira discussed the proposal when they met with Rio 2016 president Nuzman ahead of the World Cup qualifying draw in the city on July 30.

The Olympic program will be reviewed after the London 2012 Games. During the evaluation process by the IOC's program commission, beach soccer could be considered for inclusion for Rio 2016.

But the bigger Brazilian news emerging from the FIFA Ex-Co meeting is approval of the match schedules for the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil and the 2014 World Cup.

Doubts have been cast over initial plans for Sao Paulo to stage the opening match. But the under-construction Itaquera Stadium, set to be the new home of Corinthians, is favourite to be named as venue for the World Cup curtain-raiser.

Rio's Maracana Stadium will host the final.

The match schedules of both tournaments will be announced in a live TV event at the auditorium of the Home of FIFA on Thursday at 17.50 CET.

New FIFA Ex-Co members
Seven new members will sit on their first FIFA Executive Committee this week.

Jim Boyce of Northern Ireland, Oceania Football Confederation president David Chung and Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan were confirmed as new vice-presidents at the FIFA Congress.

Also joining football's decision-making body are Sri Lankan Manilal Fernando, Algeria football chief Mohamed Raouraoua and German FA president Theo Zwanziger.

China's Zhang Jilong, acting head of the Asian Football Confederation, also joins the committee; he replaces Bin Hammam, the Qatari who is currently appealing his lifetime FIFA ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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