SII Focus 13th October 2015

IOC suggests FIFA needs an external Presidential candidate

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that FIFA should be open to the idea of appointing an external candidate as its new President. “Enough is enough”, said IOC President Thomas Bach through an e-mailed statement. “We hope that now, finally, everyone at FIFA has at last understood that they cannot continue to remain passive. They must act swiftly to regain credibility because you cannot forever dissociate the credibility of FIFA from the credibility of football.

“FIFA must realise that this is now about more than just a list of candidates”, continued Bach. “This is also a structural problem and will not be solved simply by the election of a new President. They must do two things immediately: they must accelerate and deepen the reform process in order to comply with accountability, transparency and all the principles of good governance, as expressed in our reform programme, Olympic Agenda 2020. They should also be open for a credible external presidential candidate of high integrity, to accomplish the necessary reforms and bring back stability and credibility to FIFA.”

Blatter & Platini appeal

FIFA is set to elect its new President on 26 February 2016. However, at present, only Michel Platini has submitted the letters of support required to register his candidature, however this is unlikely to be accepted due to his provisional suspension. On 8 October, UEFA confirmed its support for its President’s appeal against the 90-day provisional suspension by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the independent FIFA Ethics Committee. The deadline for candidates to formally present their nominations is 26 October 2015. Prince Ali bin Al Hussein has previously indicated that he will stand in the election, however he has yet to submit a formal candidature.

Joseph S. Blatter, who was also provisionally suspended alongside Platini on 8 October and relieved from his duties as FIFA President on 8 October, has also said that he will appeal his provisional suspension. ‘We can confirm that we have requested additional proceedings before the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee and filed an appeal with the Appeal Committee’, read a 9 October emailed statement from Blatter’s lawyers, Lorenz Erni of Erni Brun Forrer (Zurich) and Richard Cullen of McGuire Woods LLP (Richmond, Virginia).

It is understood that the Ethics Committee recommended the provisional suspension of Blatter due to an investigation opened by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) into a 2005 contract (see below) with the Caribbean Football Union, and a CHF2 million (€1.8 million) contract between Blatter and Platini for work he carried out between 1999 and 2002.

Platini did not seek payment until February 2011, arguing that FIFA couldn’t afford to pay him at the time. However, as the Sports Integrity Initiative has highlighted (see infographic below), FIFA’s accounts appear to tell a different story. Platini has also failed to address his timing in seeking the payment in February 2011, shortly after the controversial November 2010 vote to appoint Russia and Qatar as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups and shortly after he decided against standing in a FIFA Presidential election he was widely expected to contest.

The OAG has described the payment Blatter made to Platini as a a ‘disloyal’ payment. It is understood that part of the OAG’s investigation will explore whether Blatter has breached his position of trust as FIFA President by making such a payment to Platini, despite Swiss law placing time limits on claims for money owed. The Guardian has been reporting that no written contract exists between Blatter and Platini, describing the payment as an ‘oral agreement’.

How Blatter could retain FIFA Presidency

As previously reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative, Blatter has only ever said that he will not stand for election as the new President of FIFA – he has never actually said that he will step down. “On 26 February, FIFA will elect a new President”, Blatter said in a 20 July press conference (video below). “I will not be a candidate for the election in 2016 […] I cannot be the new President, because I am an old President”.

However, he has not clarified what will happen if no viable candidates present themselves for election. Under Article 17 of the Electoral Regulations for the FIFA Presidency, support is required from two-thirds of the FIFA members present at the February 2016 Extraordinary Congress. Under Article 15 of the same regulations, the Ethics Committee is required to carry out an integrity check, which must be passed by Presidential candidates for them to be recommended by FIFA’s Ad-Hoc Electoral Committee. Presumably, Platini would not pass such a check, however as Blatter is not a candidate, he would not be subject to such a check.

Importantly, Blatter’s provisional suspension is for 90 days, expiring on 9 January 2016. However, even if it were extended for 45 days as FIFA’s announcement indicated it could be, it would expire on 20 February – six days before the FIFA Presidential elections.

Extradition of Costas Takkas

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) approved the extradition of Costas Takkas, a former assistant to the CONCACAF President, to the United States on 9 October. ‘Takkas is accused of demanding and accepting bribes of millions of dollars for the president of CONCACAF in connection with the sale of marketing rights for World Cup 2018 and 2022 qualifiers to a US sports marketing company’, read an FOJ statement. ‘Takkas has 30 days in which to lodge an appeal with the Federal Criminal Court, and five days in which to notify the FOJ of his intent to do so.’

Other FIFA action

The Adjudicatory Chamber of the independent FIFA Ethics Committee announced that it had provisionally suspended Worawi Makudi, President of the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) and a former member of the FIFA Executive Committee for 90 days. ‘The decision was taken pursuant to the FIFA Code of Ethics art. 83 par. 1, on the grounds that a breach of the Code of Ethics appears to have been committed and a decision on the main issue may not be taken early enough’, read a statement. ‘This decision against Worawi Makudi followed a request from the chairman of the investigatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee, Dr Cornel Borbély. The case is now the subject of formal investigation proceedings.’

FIFA also appears to have decided that following the provisional suspension of Blatter, further meetings of the 2016 FIFA Reform Committee, which Blatter set up, will be closed to the media. ‘The second meeting of the 2016 FIFA Reform Committee will be held in the Swiss capital of Berne on 16-18 October 2015’, read a statement issued today. ‘At the end of the meeting a media statement will be issued. No further media activities have been planned nor will a media working area be available at the venue. The 2016 FIFA Reform Committee is set to meet again in November 2015 in order to consolidate the proposals which will be presented to the FIFA Executive Committee in December 2015.’

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