While I watched the spectacle of the FIFA President’s press conference yesterday with a mixture of fascination and awe - as he channeled his late mother and talked of his putative new career presumably as a shock jock at an unsuspecting radio station – and chuckled at the prank from comedian Lee Nelson consulting on behalf of ‘#NorthKorea2026’, it’s important to remember that the problem with FIFA is not defined by Sepp Blatter.

The problem with FIFA and football are, in fact, FIFA and football. Getting rid of Sepp Blatter on February 26th next year will not, of itself, #FixFIFA.

What is wrong with FIFA and football is a cultural issue that goes back decades. It’s an all pervasive culture of corruption, mismanagement and intimidation, poor standards of governance and a way of doing business that has no regard for democracy, transparency and accountability. US Attorney Loretta Lynch referred to this as the ‘FIFA Way’. Andrew Jennings refers to it as an organised crime syndicate.

What FIFA relies on when they make announcements like the one yesterday about its latest taskforce, is that we’ve all forgotten about their previous grand schemes for reform and their previous taskforces. What FIFA and Sepp are coming up with are pretty much the same solutions time-after-time.

Do you remember the ‘good governance’ committee announced by Blatter in June 2011 comprising Placido Domingo, Henry Kissinger, Johann Cruyff and ex-FBI boss Louis Freeh? It’s instructive to re-read this article because it says much the same thing more than four years ago as journalists are still writing today. 

Then they moved to a so-called independent governance committee chaired by Professor Mark Pieth that resulted in a few cherry-picked reforms, some very public exits from the committee and Pieth – one of the world’s foremost experts in this area – saying that FIFA isn’t capable of reforming itself.

Many forget that the Chairman of the previous Ethics Committee, the German High Court Judge Guenter Hirsch resigned saying FIFA had no interest in tackling corruption.

Most do remember the very high profile departure of Louis Freeh’s hand-picked man, Michael J Garcia, from the ‘independent’ Ethics Committee last year saying – guess what? – FIFA is incapable of reforming itself. 

So why do some people think FIFA and Sepp have changed?

Of course they haven’t! They just trot out old media releases, delete a few names, add in a few words, change the membership around a bit – and hey presto! another FIFA reform taskforce. It’s more circling of the wagons.

Thankfully, not everyone falls for it. Coca-Cola hasn’t. The European Parliament hasn’t. And neither have Transparency International, the International Trade Union Confederation and Avaaz who have joined #NewFIFANow in saying that only one thing will make a difference -  independent reform led by an eminent person drawing on external governance experts to review, develop and implement substantial bottom-up and top-down reforms. This is the only way that systemic and cultural change can or will happen. (Check out their statements here). 

In one sense, no-one should have to say this at all. FIFA’s track record speaks for itself.

But we’ll keep hammering the point; questioning the other seven sponsors; and reminding the football associations and the Executive Committee that this is about football - not them - until they also get what the rest of us objectively know: to #FixFIFA we need independent reform. Otherwise, FIFA will go on in the same, disgraced ‘FIFA Way’. With or without Sepp Blatter.

Categories: Opinion | Football Business

fifa, fifa corruption, sepp blatter, #newfifanow

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