A Deeper Look at FIFA’s Reform Scorecard

15.10.2013

By Roger Pielke, Jr.
In the run up to Play the Game 2013 where good governance in international sports organisations will be a major theme, professor Roger Pielke Jr. presents a closer look into his research on FIFA’s reform process showing that in spite of lengthy and time consuming work, the actual progress made is very small.

Recently, FIFA and Mark Pieth, the chair of its Independent Governance Committee (IGC) since 2011, announced that they would be parting ways by the end of the year.

The separation was not entirely amicable, with FIFA declaring the effort a resounding success while having ignored many of the recommendations of the IGC.

For his part Pieth expressed frustration at the experience, “I would not take on this sort of task again in such a circus with the various factions attack[ing] each other all the time.”

With the reform effort drawing to a quiet close, we are now in a position to evaluate how well it did. Last June here at Play the Game I presented an initial evaluation of the reform effort. At the time I noted a sharp divergence between a claim from FIFA that the “glass was more than half full” with respect to the reform effort with that of Alexandra Wrage, an anti-corruption expert who resigned from the IGC in protest, who observed that the process was “the least productive project I’ve ever been involved in.” Clearly, with different interests and perspectives among those observing FIFA, it would be easy to see in the reform effort whatever outcome one might prefer to see, hence the importance of conducting a systematic evaluation.

Here I provide an update to that initial evaluation and offer some discussion of the substance of the proposed reforms, which FIFA chose to adopt versus those that it chose to ignore. As a reminder, any evaluation consists of three component parts: (a) a measuring stick against which to evaluate performance, (b) data relevant to those measures, and (c) a comparison of data against the measuring stick to assess relative success or shortfalls.

In this evaluation I use four measuring sticks: three reports which made recommendations to FIFA on how to improve its governance, complemented by a newly-developed scorecard for evaluating the governance of international sports organizations.

The three reports are:

The governance scorecard comes from two scholars at the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration (IDHEAP), Jean-Loup Chappelet and Michaël Mrkonjic, who in a new paper propose a set of quantitative metrics for evaluating the governance of international sports organizations (hereafter CM13).

In June I provided my tabulation of reform recommendations that were adopted by FIFA, either partially or in full, as well as those that went (thus far) unimplemented. The table below shows an update of that tabulation, reflecting useful comments from colleagues and FIFA experts. The totals are only slightly changed from last June, reflecting a small amount of consolidation in the recommendations.

The evaluation with respect to the Chappelet and Mrkonjic scorecard remains unchanged, Pre-reform FIFA received 55.2% of possible points (under an application of the CM13 methodology, see here for a few more details) and 56.3% of possible points after the reform effort. The FIFA reform effort thus was responsible for adding 1.1% to the total points FIFA tallies under the CM13 scorecard. By contrast, CM13 rate the IOC as scoring 70.2% on the same scoring scale – nowhere close to an A grade, but comparatively much better than FIFA post-reform.

Overall then, FIFA adopted 7 of 59 recommendations, and partially adopted 10 others, leaving 42 unimplemented. These numbers, along with the minimal impact of reform according to the CM13 scorecard, suggest that the FIFA reform effort achieved little with respect to what has been deemed necessary, at least by Transparency International, Mark Pieth, the IGC and CM13. Even so, it is also fair to conclude that several of the reforms which FIFA did implement may indeed be important achievements, such as the establishment of new ethics and audit & compliance committees, with the introduction of (at least partially) independent chairs.

Yet the perspective offered by a strict numerical tabulation tells us little about the substance of what recommendations were accepted and which were not. I have consolidated the unimplemented recommendations across the three reports and here describe the characteristics of those adopted and those not adopted.

In a nutshell, the common characteristics of the proposed reforms not adopted are that they involved (a) sharing authority and control for FIFA decision making with FIFA outsiders, (b) the imposition of external standards of governance on the organization or (c) the opening up of the organization to greater transparency in areas outside the disbursement of FIFA funding to member organizations. The reforms which were adopted involved reconfiguring FIFA’s internal decision making without giving up authority or control and several modest steps toward greater financial accountability related to monies shared with member organizations. It short, FIFA appears to have resisted any proposed reform with significant power implications.

More specifically, here is a list of nine topics which covers almost all of the 42 recommendations which went unimplemented, i.e., each of the 42 can be included under at least one of the following headings:

  • Executive term limits
  • Establishment of a compensation committee with external membership
  • Salary disclosure
  • Non-executive directors on the executive committee
  • Adoption of best-practice anti-corruption protocols
  • Adoption of best-practice conflict of interest guidelines
  • Greater financial disclosure at all levels of FIFA and its member organizations
  • Greater transparency in anti-corruption investigations, proper due process
  • Greater adoption of democratic procedures in various FIFA election processes

Assuming full and successful implementation of the proposed reforms in these nine areas would have raised FIFA’s score under the CM13 framework to a level almost exactly equal to the CM13 score for the IOC (actually, one point less than the IOC), and close to a 100% implementation success rate with respect to the 59 proposed reforms of the three reports (ignoring those no longer relevant, such as those specific to the role of the now-defunct IGC).

Another way to interpret these findings is that even complete implementation of the recommendations by Transparency International, Mark Pieth and the IGC, FIFA would still have a considerable challenge remaining in raising its governance to widely accepted best practices. In a third and final analysis of the FIFA reform process I will suggest alternative options for actually achieving improved standards of governance in FIFA in the aftermath of the IGC. The FIFA reform process will also be the subject of my talk at Play the Game 2013 later this month.


On Wednesday 29 October, during Play the Game 2013, Pielke will be presenting the above research in a session where also Mark Pieth, chair of the IGC will present his evaluation on the FIFA reform process. FIFA has also been invited to take part in the debate, but their answer is still pending.

Read Pielke's former analysis on the FIFA reform process:

http://www.playthegame.org/news/detailed/a-report-card-on-fifa-reform-5625.html

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