Mutko barred from re-election to FIFA council

Photo: Kremlin

13.03.2017

By Mads A. Wickstrøm
Head of the Russian Football Union (RFS), Vitaly Mutko has been blocked from seeking re-election to FIFA’s ruling Council after failing an eligibility check.

Vitaly Mutko has been barred from re-election to FIFA’s ruling council following an eligibility check carried out by the FIFA review committee. Mutko, who also serves as deputy prime minister in Russia, was barred by the FIFA review committee because his ministerial role contravened the statutes of FIFA.

“Vitaly Mutko […] was not admitted as a candidate for the position of member of the FIFA Council due to his position as Deputy Prime Minister,” said FIFA, according to Reuters.

FIFA added that “The Governance Committee having previously decided that FIFA’s general principles of political neutrality and the prevention of any form of government interference and, in particular, the obligation imposed by art. 14 of FIFA Code of Ethics on FIFA officials to remain politically neutral with respect to governments, create a structural and inherent incompatibility with being a member of government, the Review Committee applied such criteria in assessing the eligibility of Mr Vitaly Mutko, leading to a final decision of non-admissibility by the Governance Committee,” writes Inside the Games.

In an interview with Russian news agency TASS, Mutko shrugged off his election ban explaining that the decision made by the FIFA review committee will not harm the 2018 World Cup in Russia and furthermore, that he will not file an appeal against the committee’s decision.

“As far as our stance and preparations for the World Cup finals are concerned, the committee’s decision has no bearing on that,” Mutko told TASS.

“I wanted to be re-elected but now the FIFA represented by its compliance committee has somewhat changed the criteria. A new criterion, political neutrality, has been introduced. They want the organization to be politically neutral and officials and representatives of authorities from various countries not to be elected to all their bodies. This is their right,” Mutko added.

Government interference

FIFA has claimed to be against government interference in sport, with one of their statutes stating that confederations must be “independent and avoid any form of political interference,” writes Reuters.

When asked why FIFA continued to make an exception for Mutko, FIFA President, Gianni Infantino said that:

“[…] there is a Governance Committee in place already and they have to answer these questions, it is not up to me to make a judgement. We have rules and statutes, they apply them and when they decide with regard to any of the candidates for any of the elections, then we have to respect their decisions. The rest is about speculation, what happened in the past in FIFA is the past and now there are procedures and bodies in place,” Infantino explained at a press conference in London following the 11th Executive Football Summit on March 9, Inside the Games writes.

The WADA commissioned Independent McLaren Investigation on doping in sport, published in 2016, revealed that over 1000 Russian athletes had been involved in a Russian state-sponsored doping system. The report said that Russian Deputy Sports Minister, Yuri Nagornykh played a key role in decisions to cover-up athletes. Allegedly, Mutko made decisions regarding the cover-up of Russian footballers. Mutko's alleged involvement has led to severe criticism due to his position within the Russian Government, according to Inside the Games.

Four candidates remain in line for the European places on the FIFA Council. Sandor Csanyi, a current UEFA executive committee member, Dejan Savicevic, president of Montenegro's football federation, and Costakis Koutsokoumnis, Cyprus federation president. 

Geir Thorsteinsson, president of Iceland's football federation, withdrew his candidacy for the FIFA Council on March 13 following new eligibility rules laid down by UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin.

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