CONMEBOL president Nicolas Leoz and FIFA’s Sepp Blatter at a press conference on Feb.5 in Asuncion, Paraguay (Getty)

(WFI) South American football leaders have tightened up their statutes to ensure their 10 member football federations are protected from government meddling.

CONMEBOL’s Extraordinary Congress in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion approved the change of rules.

Confederation president Nicolas Leoz cited the FIFA suspension of Peru in 2008 in the wake of government intervention. Politicians had tried to prevent the re-election of the Peruvian FA chief Manuel Burga, which they claimed was illegal because of corruption allegations.

“We have had problems in some South American countries because some governments have become involved in issues that are exclusively for the sporting authorities. The new statute follows clear FIFA laws on this matter,” Leoz was quoted by Reuters.

Jose Luis Meisner, the confederation’s new secretary general, warned CONMEBOL’s member FAs that they risked suspension if government interference in their affairs was proven.

Delegates also gave unanimous approval for the creation of a CONMEBOL disciplinary tribunal and an appeals tribunal, as well as voting for the confederation’s statutes to be revised to step up the fight against doping.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter spoke briefly at the meeting to praise the work of the confederation led by Nicolas Leoz and to highlight the region’s footballing success stories, including its nine World Cup titles and Argentine Lionel Messi’s third consecutive World Player of the Year award. He also underscored the work of FIFA’s GOAL programme, which has seen investment in 28 projects designed to improve the FAs facilities.

Despite a series of delays in the construction of stadia and infrastructure for Brazil 2014, Blatter expressed confidence the World Cup hosts would deliver on their promises.

But he urged Brazil to come forward with the “guarantees from the political authorities”.

“Brazil will host an extraordinary World Cup. The stadiums will be ready. We at FIFA have no doubt that it’ll be a great World Cup,” he was quoted on FIFA.com.

“There are some details to be ironed out in relation to guarantees and laws, but we’re hoping these will be sorted out by the end of March.”

Blatter was accompanied on the trip by FIFA vice-president Angel Maria Villar Llona. The Swiss also attended a meeting between the presidents of the South American FAs.

Leoz had opened the congress alongside the president of the Paraguayan FA, Juan Angel Napout, by calling for unity among CONMEBOL’s 10 footballing nations.

“Whatever decisions are taken here, South American football must remain united, which has been one of its strengths in recent years.”

Regarding World Cup 2014 Qualifying, South America’s football leaders have asked FIFA to clarify the system of play-offs for a berth at the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

They are keen to ensure there is a week’s break to aid player recovery time following a long trip to Asia where the fifth-placed South American team meets the fourth-placed from the AFC’s round of qualifying. CONMEBOL also wants the return leg to be played on home soil.

On Thursday, Blatter will travel to Libreville, capital of Gabon, co-host of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

During his four-day trip, he will attend the Confederation of Africa Congress and the final of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Blatter returns to FIFA business in Zurich next Tuesday.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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