Deborah Unger of Transparency International in London spoke to euronews about the resignation of Sepp Blatter and the future of FIFA in the aftermath of the corruption scandal crippling world football’s governing body.
Point of view
If FIFA can set an example by really changing properly, having outside independent non-executive directors and outside oversight, this could become a model for others to use
Mark Davis, euronews:
Deborah, with Sepp Blatter gone there’s a power vacuum now at FIFA. How does Transparency International think that vacuum should be filled?
“At the moment there’s not exactly a power vacuum. He has gone, but he hasn’t gone for good yet. They have handed the reins to Domenico Scala, who’s head of the audit and compliance committee and he is supposed to design the next set of reforms for FIFA. And he has given himself until Christmas, pretty much, to do that. He needs to move fast, though.”
Is FIFA the first of many dominoes to fall? Which other sports bodies will be nervously looking over their shoulders at what’s gone on at FIFA?
“Well, at Transparency International we think that many sports organisations need to reform their governance structures and there have been scandals with others over the years: we had the IOC famously after the Salt Lake City scandal, it did try and reform. You’ve had others like handball and weightlifting that have been in the spotlight but FIFA is really a beacon, it’s the big one and people will be watching to see if it can transform itself, then what can we do with the other ones. Obviously with FIFA there’s much more money involved and it’s much more important around the world. Football is the world’s game.”
International sports bodies are, in the words of your organization, “fertile settings for corruption to take root”. They are neither states nor corporations. FIFA even has charity status. So without anyone to answer to, how can they be forced to play by fair rules?
“Well I think what you’re seeing is the FBI forcing them to play by the rules and the Swiss are also investigating them. So
they’re gonna be in the spotlight. Their reform process will be scrutinised by us and others, we will comment, the fans have been involved: there was a big survey of more than 750,000 fans who didn’t want Sepp Blatter to be there and wanted a new FIFA, so I think that the light that is shined on them, and the transparency that we will demand from them, will actually make some difference this time around. I think this is something of a watershed.”
That works in the case of football, which is a world giant but what about the smaller sports that don’t get the scrutiny and attention?
“You’re right, that will be much harder to reform and I’m not sure how without the spotlight of the media and the press etc. whether they will reform. Scandals always come to light and then there are calls for change. If FIFA can set an example by really changing properly, having outside independent non-executive directors and outside oversight, this could become a model for others to use.”
If you had one piece of advice for FIFA now, what would it be?
“It would be: start an independent reform committee now. Find some very very well respected people to come to your help from the outside, who are not tainted by the scandals in football, and have them work with you to really ensure that the reforms that are put in place are the right ones, they’re transparent and everyone is accountable.”