World Cup bid process leads Fifa reform recommendations

 

FIFA's new reform chief has recommended a complete overhaul of World Cup bidding, saying the current process is "a mix of corruption risk and conflict of interest concerns".

Mark Pieth, the criminology professor at the University of Basle appointed to chair FIFA's independent governance committee, also recommends time limits for the FIFA president and executive members to serve.

His raft of proposals calls for the organisation to adopt serious anti-corruption measures, to reduce the president's individual power, and that there should be independent members appointed to the executive committee.

The description of World Cup bidding will resonate particularly in those countries such as England who bid for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. Last December's votes became mired in controversy, with two FIFA members banned for breaching ethics committee rules, and in May, England's ex-2018 bid chief Lord Triesman made allegations of unethical requests by FIFA members during the campaign.

Pieth's report states: "Past experience has demonstrated that the risks linked to these highly visible and politically sensitive decisions are actually a mix of corruption risk and conflict of interest concerns.

"Suspicion that individuals either sold their vote or profiteered directly from the choice of venue is combined with allegations of a strategic use of development money in order to influence decision-takers of ExCo."

Pieth said the bidding process should be revamped to prevent manipulation and the decision for the FIFA Congress to take the final vote on World Cup hosts "is a step in the right direction from a corruption prevention perspective".

Pieth will not, however, investigate allegations of corruption involving World Cup bids or of wrongdoing by FIFA members but stick to making proposals for future reform - and he admits that some members will not like his plans for change.

He said he would walk away if he feels his reform proposals are not taken seriously.

Pieth told a news conference in Zurich: "We are talking about serious stuff here. Not everyone will like this.

"I'm not too worried about it because to some extent this is a process. We are trying to change something, but of course there's a bottom line, if we are seriously unhappy I can say 'this is it, I've had it'."

Pieth, who is being paid by FIFA for his work, said he did not have the capacity both to look into the past and to recommend reforms and he would be "professionally unsound" to do so, so he was focusing on the future.

He does, however, believe that other people should look into allegations of corruption surrounding World Cup votes.

He also said FIFA had themselves decided to take the steps towards reform.

He added: "It's like [Baron] Munchausen pulling himself out of the swamp [by his hair].

"There's nobody forcing them to do it from outside, it's their own membership within Congress. We're like football coaches in guiding them back to the road of virtue."

Pieth also recommends any payments by FIFA to member associations, their officials and people close to them need to have "close financial scrutiny".

Cash for development projects such as the GOAL programme, long seen as the source of FIFA cash which ends up in the wrong pockets, should be controlled from beginning to end to ensure it is spent correctly.

A "discrete disclosure channel" hotline to report corruption should also be made available, said Pieth, with FIFA officials subject to due diligence to establish whether they are suitable for office.

PA

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