Pieth promises to deliver ‘tough’ report to FIFA
The anti-corruption expert appointed by FIFA to advise on
modernizing reforms and repairing its scandal-hit reputation has
said he will deliver a ”tough” report to football’s world
governing body on Friday.
Mark Pieth told the Associated Press that FIFA President Sepp
Blatter’s executive committee would be wise to accept most
proposals from the Swiss law professor’s 13-member panel, which
includes football officials, sponsors and experts in clean
”It’s going to be pretty tough. There are a few issues that
will need heavy negotiation,” Pieth said in an interview at his
University of Basel office. ”If they are wise, they will pick up
most everything that is put before them.”
Pieth’s panel, called the Independent Governance Committee
(IGC), has examined the darkest chapters of FIFA’s recent history –
including alleged bribery and vote-rigging in the 2018 and 2022
World Cup bidding contests and its presidential election last year
– to help understand how FIFA functions.
Pieth acknowledged that his team was ”not amused” by the
seriousness and rigor of FIFA’s past investigative efforts.
”They have rules, they have sanctionable offenses. They have
just not applied them,” he said.
FIFA has already received the panel’s 15-page interim report,
which Pieth will explain in detail to Blatter’s high command which
on Thursday opens a two-day meeting in Zurich. Then, a slate of
changes will be sent for approval by FIFA’s 208 member nations at
their May 25 congress in Budapest, Hungary.
Pieth must seek support from veteran FIFA power-brokers,
including some who were cleared of suspected wrongdoing. They have
also seen several long-standing friends and allies removed from
office or leave with their integrity severely damaged.
”They have a horrible reputation. They should know that,”
Pieth said. ”And they have lost a few people recently from high
places under allegations or proven allegations, even. That’s really
bad for them, and they have to tidy up quickly.”
Though Pieth will not reveal detailed proposals before Friday,
some principles are key if FIFA is to take his work seriously.
He wants FIFA to appoint outsiders – not from Blatter’s
”football family” – in key positions, plus create a truly
independent process to investigate alleged corruption, overseen by
a restructured ethics committee.
”People who have not been working with FIFA for ages. That is
absolutely crucial,” Pieth said. ”We will definitely want to see
an (ethics) institution there that merits that name – that is
independent and tough and strong. That is really one of the major
In the name of transparency, Pieth will also publish the IGC
report next month for everyone to see.
”I will throw it out shortly and it will be readable,” he
Still, the former United Nations investigator insists that his
brief is not to prosecute previous allegations of impropriety.
”Frankly, if I were to embark on that now I would not be in any
way effective,” said Pieth, pointing to a meter-long shelf of
cream-colored, bound reports into the discredited U.N. Oil-For-Food
program in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
After a probe that cost $35 million and occupied 75
investigators for two years, Pieth doesn’t want to lead FIFA
through the same process.
He cares less for the old guard – and ”a structure that allows
corrupt people to come in and stay there” – than helping the next
”My idea is to renovate the structure so that they can take
care of each other,” Pieth said, looking beyond Blatter’s
scheduled departure in 2015.
On Pieth’s list of ”good guys” are the two FIFA member
presidents on his panel – Sunil Gulati of the United States and
Lydia Nsekera from Burundi.
”Sunil is a brilliant person, a brilliant mind,” Pieth said of
the U.S. Soccer Federation head and Columbia University economics
lecturer, who was closely tied to the 2022 World Cup bid beaten by
Qatar in the December 2010 vote.
Pieth said he saw no conflict in Gulati contributing to a
process which has examined allegations about Qatar’s big-spending
”He declared from the beginning that he had won a bid (to host
the 1994 World Cup) and lost a bid,” Pieth said. ”And we know, of
course, in which circumstances.”
Gulati and Nsekera are among six football people Pieth chose
from shortlists provided by FIFA.
Pieth had freedom to complete the team with six governance
experts, and said he has been ”astonished” how well the two
groups worked together in a format originally suggested by
Transparency International sports adviser Sylvia Schenk.
The governance advisers form a separate steering group which
takes reports from three FIFA task forces. Their work studying the
ethics committee, statutes, plus transparency and compliance will
help draft a new ethical code and conflict of interest rules.
Pieth praised the task forces, though added: ”We don’t agree
with everything. We have a few additional things that we will put
on the table.”
When Pieth steps into FIFA’s executive committee chamber at its
ultra-modern headquarters, he returns to the place where the full
IGC panel sat in session, for one day in January and three days
He will say his piece, then leave FIFA’s rulers to
”They want to probably discuss under the old rules, which is
amongst themselves. Which is fine,” he said.
Blatter will face questions from international media later
Friday, though Pieth cautions against judging FIFA’s reforms – and
apparent commitment to the cause – too quickly.
”I can definitely say whether we have failed, or whether it is
working, in May when we see what goes through Congress,” Pieth