I’ve spent the last few days at one of the ‘must do’ activities on the sports integrity and governance calendar – attending and speaking at the excellent biennial conference of Play the Game, part of the Institute of Sports Studies in Aarhus, Denmark.
I first attended in 2013 and spoke about what we did to help get change at world cycling. I was really thrilled to meet so many people brought together because of their mutual interest and commitment to improving sports governance, many of whom are now good mates.
This year, on behalf of #NewFIFANow, I was part of a session to take place at the Hamlet-inspired Elsinore Theatre on Reforming football: to be or not to be … a FIFA President. But there’s no Hamlet-like doubt about that question for me!
Others speaking at the session include the wonderful investigative journalist, Jens Weinreich, who recently published voluminous material via Der Spiegel about the German Football Federation (DFB), Franz Beckenbauer, adidas and friends; the Danish Football Association president; and two FIFA Presidential candidates, David Nakhid (former Trinidad and Tobago footballer) and Jerome Champagne (France/Switzerland).
It was interesting and enlightening – not least because the nominations for the FIFA Presidency closed on Monday, and we now know there are six more candidates to add to Nakhid and Champagne. It was certainly a great opportunity for Nakhid and Champagne to put forward their plans to reform the organisation they seek to lead.
It’s been a while since I wrote specifically about FIFA so it’s worthwhile having a recap with so much happening. Since July:
- Back in the middle of September I was involved in the Swiss TV programme that revealed the contract for a sale of TV rights by Sepp Blatter to disgraced corrupt former exco member Jack Warner for two World Cups for USD600,000. Warner subsequently on-sold these rights for between USD18,000,000 and 20,000,000.
- Immediately after watching the programme, the Swiss Attorney General opened criminal proceedings against Sepp Blatter over the sale plus an alleged “disloyal payment” – a Swiss legal term – of around US$2 million to UEFA President, Michel Platini, paid in 2011 and conveniently timed with Platini’s withdrawal as a Presidential candidate from the election that year.
- Both Blatter and Platini have been suspended by FIFA for 90 days pending an Ethics Committee investigation.
- A potential FIFA Presidential candidate (and former exco member), Dr Chung Moon-Jung of Korea, has been banned from football for six years.
- The FIFA Ethics Committee announced it was conducting a number of other investigations into more men who voted for the 2018/2022 World Cups – Franz Beckenbauer, Angel Maria Villar Llona, Amos Adamu, Nicolas Leoz and Ricardo Teixeira.
- The man who is now Acting President of FIFA, Issa Hayatou, was suspended by the IOC in 2011 because of bribery in the famous ISL case. The FIFA Ethics Committee of the time didn’t bother to even investigate this, instead preferring to ban the investigative journalist who uncovered the case, Andrew Jennings, from its media conferences.
- But it gets better – the man who is now Acting President of UEFA, Villar Llona, is one of those currently under investigation!
- In total, of the 22 men who voted for the 2018/2022 World Cup tournaments, half of them are banned, suspended or indicted. Seriously, you couldn’t make this up!
- Three sponsors – Coca-Cola, VISA and McDonald’s – came out in July to support our plan for the implementation of an independent reform of FIFA led by an eminent person.
- Three weeks ago, those three sponsors and a fourth, Budweiser, have called for Sepp Blatter to step down.
- At #NewFIFANow, we have again written to the 209 member of the FIFA Congress and the FIFA Executive Committee.
- As mentioned above, Der Spiegel has published extensive material put together by Jens Weinreich which alleges that the DFB set-up a slush fund of 10 million Swiss francs (cash provided by adidas former CEO and controlling shareholder Robert Louis-Dreyfus) to buy votes for the 2006 World Cup. This was overseen by Franz Beckenbauer and Wolfgang Niersbach.
- The ‘insider’ reform committee, led by former boss of the IOC, Francois Carrard, have set out some proposals for reform approved by the existing Executive Committee earlier this week. These proposals are a start, but only a start. They are the relatively simple ones and despite the words about culture change, there will be no serious change of culture at FIFA while it is driven by sports insiders and those who stand to benefit.
FIFA as we know it is in trouble. We have said this before. We’ll say it again. The Swiss and US authorities have made it abundantly clear that their work is continuing and they expect more arrests.
If the FIFA Executive and FIFA Congress held their sport and its reputation in the high regard they should, they would give over the game for a time-limited and independent external FIFA Reform Commission to clean it up. The fact that they are going to the wire on this, in the face of overwhelming evidence as to why they shouldn’t, just underscores the point – these people have been there too long, they’ve lost perspective, and they’re more interested in their role in the game, sitting at the pointy end of aircraft and getting great seats to football matches, then they are in the long term growth, development and reputation of the sport they manage.
Onwards and upwards. Watch this space.
P.S. Don’t forget you can support independent governance reform of FIFA by signing our petition here.