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

government.

”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

issues.”

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

promised.

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

football leaders.

”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

tactics.

”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

last month.

He will say his piece, then leave FIFA’s rulers to

deliberate.

”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

said.