Adviser: FIFA should probe past corruption claims


Associated Press

Posted on November 30, 2011 at 9:02 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 30 at 12:41 PM

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA's new anti-corruption adviser believes previous claims of impropriety inside football's world governing body need to be examined. He just won't be the man to do it.

Swiss professor Mark Pieth said Wednesday that he prefers to focus on how the organization can improve the way it is run in future.

"If I'm looking at the future I cannot be the adviser about what happened in the past," Pieth told The Associated Press at FIFA headquarters after presenting a preliminary report containing proposed reforms of the Zurich-based body.

Pieth said FIFA should consider suspending officials who are under criminal investigation, make the election of its presidents more transparent and impose term limits for officials to avoid entrenched loyalties resulting in favors being swapped.

The former U.N. investigator, who also heads a high-level global anti-corruption panel, said his new role is a serious one given the cultural importance of FIFA's flagship tournament, the World Cup, and the billions of dollars that pass through its coffers every fours years.

"It might have been a gentleman's club in the past," he said. "But once you start talking about these figures you have to adopt a very no-nonsense approach."

Pieth said some officials in FIFA's hierarchy might balk at the proposals he plans to submit before the annual members' meeting in May. But given the range of allegations leveled at functionaries and the organization itself, FIFA has no choice but to act, he said.

"There has been, rightly or wrongly, a lot of distrust generated over the past," Pieth said. "I think they need a way out of this."

Calls have grown for FIFA to tighten its ethics rules following allegations of bribe-taking by senior officials, including executive committee members, during the votes that gave the World Cup staging rights to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

In a brief appearance before reporters, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he intended to honor his promise to members and governments to reform the structure of the organization and make it more transparent.

In Brazil, prosecutors have said they will investigate FIFA executive member Ricardo Teixeira for money laundering and tax crimes. Teixeira, who is the head of the 2014 World Cup organizing committee, has also been linked to a bribery scandal at FIFA's former marketing partner ISL, which owned World Cup television rights until its 2001 bankruptcy.

Pieth said it would be up to FIFA to decide which of his team's proposals to accept.

"We've put something on the table that is quite provocative," he told The AP. "They will probably start moaning and saying, 'Hang on, this we can do and this is totally out of place.' Then we have to go through a process and see what is reasonable."

Pieth said that if he felt his team was being used as a fig leaf, he would step down from the paid advisory role.