Pieth Report Blasts FIFA Handling of Corruption Allegations; Ex-Co Backs Ethics Reforms

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Blatter described Friday as a "historic day for FIFA’s reform process" (Getty)
(WFI) FIFA president Sepp Blatter has backed calls for a major revamp of its governance structure made by anti-corruption adviser Mark Pieth, whose report published today said past allegations of corruption within football's governing body were "insufficiently investigated".

Breaking with convention, Blatter released some of the decisions made by the FIFA Ex-Co on his Twitter page ahead of Friday's press conference which coincided with the online publication of Pieth's report.

The move was clearly intended to steer reporting away from some of the stinging criticism levelled at FIFA in the 15-page report by the head of its Independent Governance Committee.

Pieth presented the recommendations of his 13-member panel to the FIFA Ex-Co on Friday morning.

"Historic day for FIFA’s reform process; two-chamber ethics committee approved. One chamber investigates and the other chamber acts as a judge," Blatter tweeted to his 234,094 followers.

"New Audit & Compliance Committee also well received – another milestone. Delighted that the Executive Committee has agreed to back me on this crucial reform," he added.

The reforms along with a series of other recommendations must now be approved by FIFA's 208 member assocations at the FIFA Congress in Budapest on May 25.

The new-look ethics panel was of the main recommendations of Pieth's committee, part of whose remit was a review of how FIFA has dealt with allegations of misconduct involving its Ex-Co members linked to the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding contest and last year's FIFA presidential election campaign.

Pieth's report slammed the FIFA ethics committee's handling of a spate of bribery allegations that engulfed over a third of the Ex-Co and led to a lifetime ban for Mohamed Bin Hammam in the biggest crisis to hit FIFA in its 108-year history.

The Independent Governance Committee said FIFA's management of the corruption was "insufficient to meet the challenges of a major global sport governing body. This has led to unsatisfactory reactions to persistent allegations.

"In particular, the IGC has identified a lack of proactive and systematic investigation of allegations. In some instances, allegations were insufficiently investigated and where sanctions were imposed, they are at times insufficient and clearly unconvincing."

Pieth "strongly recommends" that the chairs and deputy chairs of these judicial bodies - the two-chamber ethics committee - are "truly independent persons of high standing and expertise".

The make-up of the IGC itself was criticised for lacking independence when it was first set up last November to launch reforms for improved governance and transparency of FIFA overseeing four internal task forces.

In his recommendations, Pieth also demands that a new Code of Ethics "must make clear that the Ethics Committee is empowered to investigate and adjudicate past issues or behaviour".

Limiting Presidential Terms

Other recommendations aimed at a revision of FIFA's statutes included limiting the FIFA president to two terms of four years. Blatter is currently serving a third four-term through 2015 following his unopposed election in Zurich
last June.

Ex-Co members would also be limited to two terms of four years under the IGC's report. A new independent nomination committee would vet FIFA members. No age limit is proposed but "the proposed terms of office, the impeachment procedure [by the nomination committee] and the integrity checks should serve the purpose of ensuring efficient corporate bodies".

Among the biggest risk areas in FIFA's financial controls, Pieth said, were its development programs, decisions relating to the selection of World Cup hosts as well as marketing and TV rights deals.

Pieth's report stopped short of calling for investigations into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids following a string of bribery allegations against Ex-Co members and unproven allegations that Qatar 2022 had bribed two FIFA voters.

Changes to World Cup Bidding

Specifically on World Cup hosting following the cash-for-votes scandals that tarnished the 2018 and 2022 bidding campaigns and dented FIFA's global reputation, Pieth's report recommends that its statutes "should explicitly state the principles of integrity, fairness and equity.

"In a next step, the bidding procedure should be clearly regulated on policy level, including rules relating to campaigns of bidders. The corresponding policies and procedures should be reviewed by the IGC before enactment," the report said.

Also to be discussed at the Budapest FIFA Congress are integration into the federation's statutes is last year’s congress decision that the World Cup host be appointed by the FIFA Congress on the basis of a shortlist submitted by the Executive Committee.

Pieth's recommendations are subject to the approval of the FIFA Congress, but he is hoping the new governance policies and procedures will come into effect after the 2013 FIFA Congress in Mauritius.

Other Key Ex-Co Decisions

- FIFA's ruling body decided that an FA may be permitted FIFA membership if admitted by its respective confederation. South Sudan could become 209th member.

- Blatter confirmed that a woman would be co-opted onto the FIFA Ex-Co at the federation's upcoming congress, with formal election in 2013.

- FIFA finances: the Ex-Co approved the 2011 Financial Report that showed profit of $36 million. It generated $1.07 billion revenue and spent $1,03 billion, with 75% of invested in FIFA events and football development projects.

- Several TV broadcasting deals in Europe - ARD/ZDF (Germany) for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, SVT (Scandinavia) and EBU (for 37 European countries) for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups - were approved as a result of the European tender.

- Olympic Football Tournaments: the release of U-23 players by clubs will be compulsory.

- Medical: cooling breaks in FIFA competition matches in hot and humid conditions (over 31/32°C) have been approved.

- Indonesia: the country's FA (PSSI) has been given until June 15 to settle the issues at stake, notably the control of the breakaway league, failing which the case will be referred to the FIFA Emergency Committee for suspension.

- South Sudan: the country's FA, admitted as the 54th member of the Confederation of African Football in February, cannot under the current statutes immediately become a FIFA member. But if the current proposed amendments to the FIFA Statutes are adopted by the 2012 Congress, the SSFA could be admitted by the congress this year.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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