FIFA reforms panel makes little progress at 1st meeting

BERN, Switzerland (AP) A FIFA-appointed panel driving reforms of the crisis-hit governing body appeared to stall Thursday after its first outing.

A two-day, closed-door session was intended to set FIFA’s clear path toward more transparency and integrity amid American and Swiss criminal investigations of corruption implicating senior football officials.

Francois Carrard, who FIFA picked last month to lead the process, said then he wanted to present ”tangible” details to the President Sepp Blatter-chaired executive committee meeting on Sept. 24-25.

”We are not yet at the stage of the proposals,” Carrard, who was the IOC’s director general during reforms after the Salt Lake City bribery scandal, said Thursday.

Specific ideas will be discussed when his group returns to the Swiss capital Bern on Oct. 16-18.

Carrard is working with a 12-member team picked from FIFA’s six continental confederations, fueling skeptics who question if an in-house process can or wants to achieve deep-rooted changes.

Carrard already drew criticism on himself with provocative comments about the United States in a Swiss newspaper interview last month.

He said then he ”struggled to understand” why U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch held a news conference in May about the FIFA case, and suggested football there was ”just an ethnic sport for girls in schools.”

”I should speak less,” Carrard said Thursday, acknowledging that ”ethnic” was ”a word I used that really didn’t buy me a great publicity.”

His description of football’s status in the U.S. related to ”50-60 years ago” when he was a student who had ”great experiences” in California.

”Football in the U.S. is extremely important and has known a fantastic development,” Carrard said, noting the Women’s World Cup title victory in July.

Still, the veteran Swiss lawyer repeated his surprise at the ”harshness of the action which was taken in Zurich” in May. Federal police arrested seven men, including two FIFA vice presidents suspected of taking bribes, in dawn raids at their hotel.

”It was a surprise blitz so to speak,” said Carrard, though adding ”I have the greatest respect for American justice.”

Pressure on FIFA from the criminal investigations led Blatter to announce his planned exit, and launch a reform program before he leaves office on Feb. 26.

Expected proposals such as term limits for senior FIFA officials, publishing their payments and vetting their integrity more strictly were already blocked by the executive committee and member federation since first mooted in 2012.

Now they are back on the agenda and must be voted in by the 209 member federations on the same day they elect Blatter’s successor.

”There is a deep perception of the seriousness of the situation. We will do our best,” said Carrard, who set one target for this month.

Carrard plans to appoint a five-member advisory board – building a layer of independent oversight with input from World Cup sponsors- to check his work.