Webb: FIFA faces huge challenges to restore image, public trust

CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb hopes FIFA is bold enough to take on reforms to regain public trust over ''ethics and morals."

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MANCHESTER, England — 

FIFA’s image problems are harming football and it must work to regain trust over ”ethics and morals,” according to one of Sepp Blatter’s deputies.

But FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb stopped short of criticizing Blatter, who has led the governing body since 1998 and is standing for a fifth term, instead praising the president for driving up revenue.

The scandal-hit governing body, though, remains synonymous with corruption with only limited changes to its governance.

”It is (tarnished),” Webb said of FIFA on Tuesday at the SoccerEx conference. ”I do believe that FIFA has some huge challenges and definitely from image and perception, that is definitely perhaps the No. 1 challenge … image and public perception is definitely affecting the game.

”Obviously we don’t see it when it comes to revenue and the business side, but definitely from an ethics and morals standpoint I believe we have a lot of work to do. We have to build up trust and confidence. We have got to be consistent.”

That involves publishing the report into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests handed to FIFA last week by ethics investigator Michael Garcia, according to Webb and fellow FIFA vice president Jim Boyce.

FIFA has previously refused to publicly disclose the full findings of ethics investigations.

”FIFA want to be transparent now,” Boyce told The Associated Press at SoccerEx. ”Certainly if people are deemed and it’s proved that they were corrupt in anyway then of course the people should know.”

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Despite his image problem, Blatter has largely emerged unscathed from corruption scandals that have discredited many former members of his executive committee.

”Possibly where Mr. Blatter made a mistake was in not dealing with some of these issues in a much more stronger way than he’s now doing currently,” Boyce said. ”Perhaps he should (have) done that several years ago.”

There is little appetite within world football for change, given FIFA generates more than $1 billion revenue annually and has nearly $1.5 billion in reserves.

”What the team of Joseph Blatter and (secretary-general) Jerome Valcke has done has been tremendous,” Webb said. ”We need that level of consistency.”

Webb does, however, see the need to overhaul FIFA’s ruling body, ensuring representation for players, referees and sponsors.

”We should be brave enough and bold enough to take on the challenges of reform in the executive committee,” Webb said.