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16th March 2018
Michael Hershman, co-founder of Transparency International, confessed that he doesn’t have any confidence in the FIFA reform process currently being headed by François Carrard, former International Olympic Committee (IOC) Director General. “I don’t have confidence in this reform process and, frankly, it’s a waste of time and money”, he said at Securing Sport, the International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS) conference in New York.
Hershman, who sat on FIFA’s Independent Governance Committee headed by Mark Pieth, highlighted that four previous efforts to reform FIFA’s governance had failed. “It started with a report from the NGO Transparency International, there was another report from the Basel Institute for Good Governance, there was our IGC report on reform”, he said. “There was a full pack of reforms proposed by Domenico Scala, Head of the Audit & Compliance Committee. All of these provided a roadmap for FIFA reform, which they have basically ignored. Why should we expect that this next reform effort, which is a bunch of insiders, is going to achieve what we weren’t able to?”
Hershman also said that he “didn’t agree” with Carrard’s questioning of the motives behind the US Department of Justice (DoJ) had launched its investigation into FIFA. In August, Carrard told Swiss newspaper Le Matin: “I cannot understand – and I am not the only one – why the DoJ was agitated to the point of holding a news conference in New York. Crimes like this happen in the US every day.”
Eric Holder, a former US Attorney General who also helped promote the US bid to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup, said that the DoJ investigation “was not a function of us not getting the World Cup”. He said that the DoJ had a “legitimate interest” in pursuing action against FIFA. Former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, supported the US’ right to ensure its anti-corruption laws are not being violated, “even if that means extra-territorial application”.
Hershman, who is a member of the ICSS’s Advisory Board, also warned that the election to replace FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter on 26 February is crucial to the future of football’s world governing body. “This race is going to determine the path for the future of FIFA”, he said. “And if it doesn’t go the right way, I think that FIFA is in danger of disintegrating”.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Hershman said that he didn’t believe that Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), is the right person to take over from Blatter. “My personal view is that he’s not an appropriate candidate for FIFA President because of his track record – or lack of track record – in the area of human rights”, said Hershman. “The support of these candidates that are running for equal rights and human rights should be taken into consideration by the Ethics Committee when they’re vetting candidates. I think that he has a lot of explaining to do about what his position has been in the past.”
On 3 November, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) sent a complaint to FIFA detailing Sheikh Salman’s alleged connections to human rights abuses carried out against footballers and others in 2011. BIRD has asked FIFA to be disqualified from FIFA’s Presidential race for breaching Article 19(2) of FIFA’s Code of Ethics.
Hershman also said that some of the FIFA Presidential candidates – especially those from UEFA – had questions to answer over their prior support for reform. “We now have another candidate from UEFA, the Secretary General [Gianni Infantino]”, he said. “UEFA was not, as a confederation, a strong supporter of our reforms. I have a problem with anyone coming from that organisation, given their past inability to support major reforms of FIFA.”
However, Hershman has reversed his position on the integrity checks that will be carried out on the FIFA Presidential candidates. “Before recent events, I did not have confidence”, he said. “You may remember that our IGC recommended centralised checks. FIFA fought against that, UEFA fought against that. They wanted to be able to pre-qualify and do the vetting of candidates. That was unacceptable. Now it’s back to centralised checks I am more confident, especially given recent actions by the Ethics Committee to suspend Sepp Blatter, to suspend Platini, to suspend Valcke. They’re doing the right thing.”
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