(WFI) FIFA’s reforms chairman Francois Carrard says the package of measures approved Thursday are “a beginning of a new era” as the federation battles a fresh corruption scandal.

The FIFA Executive Committee meets in Zurich. (FIFA)

Two FIFA ExCo members were arrested in dawn raids today at a luxury hotel in Zurich, just hours before they were due to participate in reform discussions.

Acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou opened a press conference following a two-day executive committee meeting by saying the arrests “underscore the necessity to establish a complete program of reforms”.

Against the backdrop of the escalating scandal engulfing FIFA, Carrard, a former IOC director general, said FIFA’s crisis was “a unique opportunity for change, for renewal and for commencing a new period of its very rich history”.

The main elements of the reforms focus on term limits, the creation of a 36-member FIFA Council, replacing the ExCo, and more opportunities for women in decision-making positions. Reforms are subject to approval by the 209 member associations at the FIFA Congress on Feb. 26.

The FIFA president and FIFA Council officials will be able to serve a maximum three terms of four years, or 12 years in total.

There will be a clear separation of political and management functions, with the FIFA Council charged with overseeing strategic direction and the general secretariat charged with carrying out the operational and commercial business side of the strategy.

Amid the controversy over allegations of human rights abuses involving migrant workers in Qatar, host of the 2022 world Cup, the FIFA ExCo is also proposing a committee for human rights. A change in FIFA statutes would be needed to introduce the body intended to monitor human rights issues linked to football.

Reform Commission chairman Francois Carrard (Getty)

Carrard told a press conference that lengthy discussions had taken place about the term limits but the issue of age limits that suspended president Sepp Blatter has been so opposed to had been dropped from the reforms package.

“We have given up the age limit for the reason that age limit is by definition arbitrary,” he said. “What is important in an institution like FIFA is to secure renewal of terms. We reached an absolute consensus.

“It’s realistic. It’s sound. It’s fair… three terms of four years and a maximum 12 years for terms of office.”

A proposal to expand the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams was also discussed at the ExCo.

Carrard said members had been “extremely receptive” to the plan, which will give confederations more slots in the quadrennial football showpiece. Like the expanded FIFA Council, the reforms committee it was about enlarging participation in world football. The proposal is from the 2026 World Cup onwards.

INSIDER reported last month that Carrard’s proposed independent advisory group had been abandoned.

He told reporters that time constraints had not made it possible to set up before this week’s meeting. Under a new concept, a small advisory group, likely to include figures from outside football, would be named in January. The panel “will accompany for a time the reform process itself and come with improvements and suggestions”.

FIFA today set a new timetable for reforms, in three phases: Approval of reforms/ presidential election on Feb 26; Restore Credibility; Recover & Consolidate. The final stage would end in December 2018, according to acting FIFA secretary general Markus Kattner.

Kattner described Thursday’s ExCo approval of reforms as a vital step in a process that would result in a “trusted sports organization… by all those connected to world football”.

“The people at FIFA are fully aware of the significant challenges in front of us,” he said.

Hayatou, who fell asleep for a short time during the press conference, was roused by several questions about corruption allegations that have dogged his career.

Alleged to have accepted a $1.5 million bribe from the Qataris during the 2022 world Cup bidding race, he was asked directly if he and FIFA were corrupt.

“I would not be here if I was corrupt my dear friend,” he responded. “I have never received a single dollar from anybody to vote for the World Cup.”

On being reprimanded by the IOC for bribery allegations linked to the ISL marketing scandal in 2011, he said: “The IOC blamed me for that but I didn’t take a cent.”

Speaking about reforms to bring more women into FIFA, executive committee member Moya Dodd said it was an essential this was “embedded in reforms”, adding “Because its 2015, it’s fair and greater diversity leads to better decisions.”

Dodd spoke of a “chorus of voices calling for greatr involvement of women in decision-making” and of the “deluge of support from sports people and beyond governments”.

By INSIDER Mark Bisson

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