ZURICH - FIFA president Sepp Blatter may
have been tempting fate when he baptised his new anti-corruption
watchdog the Solutions Committee because there is a considerable
risk it will fail to live up to its name.
The creation of the less-than-imaginatively named committee
was one of three measures announced by Blatter following his
re-election on Wednesday but none offered much hope of real
change in football's beleaguered world governing body.
Blatter's fourth and final mandate could also see the
75-year-old face internal divisions as he battles to push reform
through a federation where many members still believe nothing
He will also have to deal with the powerful, wealthy
European clubs who are becoming increasingly agitated at FIFA's
Blatter, re-elected unopposed after his opponent Mohamed Bin
Hammam withdrew from the race amid cash-for-votes allegations,
likes to see FIFA as a force for good which uses the sport to
promote social and education programmes across the world.
But instead of being lauded for its social conscience,
Blatter had to listen to a stinging reproach from the president
of his own country who urged FIFA to "take seriously the many
criticisms voiced about corruption and a lack of transparency.
"It is of the utmost importance because your organisation
should be an example not only to young people but to the world,"
Micheline Calmy-Rey said in her address to the opening of the
"Let not money spoil your ideals."
Blatter, himself cleared on Sunday after allegations that he
had behaved unethically in the presidential race, appeared stung
into action by that as he pushed through three measures
immediately after his re-election.
The first was to change the way World Cup hosts are chosen,
increasing the electoral college from the 24-man executive
committee to the 208-member Congress, reversing a change made in
However, with the 2022 World Cup hosts already decided, this
change will not have any effect for at least seven to eight
years while the executive committee still has a role in drawing
up a short-list of suitable candidates.
Blatter then went on to announce changes to the ethics
committee, separating the investigation process from the final
decision-making, and the creation of the Solutions Committee as
a general watchdog.
Neither of these moves are likely to placate the many
observers who believe an external investigation into FIFA's
affairs is needed.
International corruption watchdog Transparency
International, saying FIFA's Ethics Committee was "shrouded in
secrecy", had suggested more far-reaching measures.
It proposed clear rules on how to deal with allegations of
corruption, the appointment of an ombudsman, a review of the
existing code of ethics, compliance clauses for all contracts
and a review of the process by which television rights and
sponsorship contracts are awarded.
Blatter's only concession was that outsiders may be brought
in "if necessary" with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger, 88, and former Dutch international player Johan
Cruyff named as two possible advisors.
Blatter's claims that FIFA was unified looked questionable
after 17 associations voted in favour of postponing Wednesday's
election and a further 17 abstained.
But a bigger threat comes from the wealthy and powerful
European clubs, led by former West Germany forward Karl-Heinz
Rummenigge, who want a bigger slice of the World Cup cake and
fewer international fixtures.
"The recent happenings have once more proven that FIFA needs
a change in its whole structure," said Rummenigge, chairman of
the European Club Assocation.
"I request FIFA to immediately introduce democratic and
transparent structures and procedures. European clubs will no
longer accept that they do not participate in the
decision-making when it comes to club-related matters.
"We will... take appropriate measures, if there is no
Blatter, who showed no inclination to support his long-time
allies Qatari Bin Hammam and Trinidadian Jack Warner when they
were suspended by the ethics committee on Sunday, may have to
break more alliances if he wants to carry through his reforms.
Bin Hammam and Warner have denied any wrongdoing.
Despite a series of damaging revelations recently, some of
them from FIFA Executive Committee member Chuck Blazer, there
are clearly a large number of FIFA members who see the
allegations as a figment of the media's imagination.
FIFA vice-president Julio Grondona told the media to "stop
bothering us" and accused the press of peddling lies. He was
later backed by fellow executive committee member Angel Maria
Villar Llona of Spain and several other delegates.
Recently, Blatter has tried to distance himself from the
executive committee, pointing out that they are elected by their
respective federations and not from within FIFA.
He said one of his first jobs for the Solutions Committee
would be to look at changing the way in which executive
committee members are chosen, a suggestion that seems certain to
cause rumblings of discontent.
Blatter said: "I do not expect any more battles, now we are
going into a new period of FIFA transparency. I think the
message was clear for all the associations."
That may be wishful thinking.
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