FIFA's transparency offensive
02.06.2006By Jakob Staun
In the wake of the ISL collapse in May 2001 the International Federation of Football (FIFA) has been facing rumours of bribery and corruption and accusations of dubious financial transactions.
So far, FIFA has given few public comments on ISL matters which are still dealt with by liquidators.
FIFA has reacted in several other ways, for instance by making counterclaims against the insolvent estate after ISL.
Furthermore the federation has been on the offensive enhancing its public profile with regards to its standards of governance – under the motto ‘for the good of the game’.
In an interview on FIFA's web site on 29 January 2003, General secretary Urs Linsi stated:
"FIFA is a healthy, clean and transparent organisation with nothing to hide. […] We should always remember to let the media and the public know what we are doing. There is huge public interest in FIFA, therefore we have to be as transparent as possible. We will try to communicate in a more open way concerning football matters so the world can believe us and be proud of their federation."
Introducing a Code of Ethics
In October 2004, FIFA adopted a new ‘Code of Ethics’ with the aim of “safeguarding FIFA’s image and pursuit of objectives against the unethical actions of Officials and to ensure Officials’ integrity in the discharge of their duties” as the preamble states.
It further states that persons bound by the Code “shall represent FIFA in an ethical manner […] and under no circumstances abuse their position to obtain personal benefits”.
Article 6 says that it is forbidden for persons bound by the Code to accept any gifts of money and in continuation of this no one “shall accept bribes through the offer, promise or acceptance of a gift or any other benefit in return for violating their duties in the interest of third parties” (article 7).
Finally the ‘Code of Ethics’ obligates everybody “to report any unethical incidents involving others who are also bound by the Code to the Committee for Ethics and Fair Play if an investigation has not otherwise been instantiated.”
The current members of the Committee for Ethics and Fair Play are presented on FIFA's website. At FIFA's 2006 Congress, the committee was renamed "Committee for Fair Play and Social Responsibility." The Congress also decided to create a new Ethics Committee which shall work independently of FIFA's Executive Committee.
Special task force
In September 2005, FIFA set up another special task force “For The Good of the Game’ as a reply to the challenges facing ‘the international football family’ as for instance regional football leagues’ quest for independence, multiple club ownership, doping, racism, discrimination, betting and corruption.
Presenting the new task force, FIFA president Sepp Blatter stated:
"We should in essence be able to live in a wonderful world thanks to the beautiful game, but some parts of today's football world are sadly not as wonderful as they should be. That is why we must take stock of the problems that face us, analyse them and find solutions."
President Blatter himself presides over the task force with UEFA President Lennart Johansson as Vice-President.
The other members of the task force and its working groups including work plans are described on FIFA's website.
Attacking dishonesty and greed
In October 2005, president Blatter expanded on football as a new type of market characterized by dishonesty and greed in a column in Financial Times and on FIFA's website.
“More than ever before, the majority is fighting with spears, while the greedy few have the financial equivalent of nuclear warheads.”
He recognizes that the rocketing wages in football is out of FIFA’s control – that football is a free market based on supply and demand.
What is in FIFA’s power though is, in Blatters own words in an interview with Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, “to make sure, that the clubs’ comply with our demands to the club licences and through that manage to escape the financial mess.”