FIFA financial watchdog to monitor 2015 election

FIFA financial watchdog to monitor 2015 election

Published Mar. 21, 2014 1:02 p.m. ET

ZURICH (AP) When FIFA presidential candidates campaign in next year's election, the governing body's financial watchdog will be keeping a close eye on everyone.

No more $1 million grants will go by, like last time when Sepp Blatter handed over the sum to the CONCACAF regional body, without provoking an ethics investigation.

''That would not work anymore,'' Domenico Scala told The Associated Press in an interview.

Scala, speaking before the release of FIFA's annual financial report Friday, was appointed in 2012 to lead a modernized audit panel ordered by Blatter after scandals tainted votes for World Cup hosts and the president's own re-election.


Scala also cautioned against candidates promising money to confederations and national federations without approval from the FIFA development committee, which allocates spending.

A bitter election in 2011 was marked by escalating payments and promises from FIFA reserves, which was announced Friday as $1.432 billion. Scala said such giveaways of FIFA money ''will not be possible'' before the May 2015 poll.

Last time, FIFA gave $144.4 million in ''extraordinary payments'' from 2010 World Cup profits - $550,000 to each country and $5 million to each continent - which Blatter described as a ''gift to our shareholders.''

Blatter's election rival, Mohamed bin Hammam, pledged to double annual grants and project funding before he withdrew when implicated in buying votes in the Caribbean.

Bin Hammam was accused of offering $1 million - envelopes of $40,000 to each of 25 CONCACAF members - at a meeting in Trinidad one week after Blatter's $1 million FIFA promise in Miami.

Blatter has said he will seek re-election if enough of FIFA's 209 member countries ask him. Other potential candidates are UEFA President Michel Platini, deputy chairman of the development panel, and former FIFA official Jerome Champagne.

Scala said he would help decide a new FIFA president's contract and salary but cannot change Blatter's ongoing terms.

Though Scala favors publishing Blatter's secret salary and bonuses package, he said it is ''not my most important battle'' compared with imposing term limits on time in office.

Blatter's contract gives annual performance-related bonuses and four yearly bonuses tied to the World Cup commercial cycle, Scala said.

''It's a very normal contract you would expect for a CEO,'' said Scala, who was chief executive at dental firm Nobel Biocare Holding AG for four years until 2011.

Bonuses for Blatter's executive committee colleagues ended in December.

''There was no relationship in logic for them,'' Scala said.

Those bonuses were included in ''key management personnel'' payments in 2013 totaling $36.3 million. Still, FIFA could afford them. The spiraling value of media rights and sponsorship sales defy a stream of negative stories about the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes for Russia and Qatar, respectively, and the Blatter-bin Hammam rivalry.

American broadcaster Fox paid a four-fold increase for 2018-2022 English language rights over ESPN's existing deal, Qatar-based Al Jazeera bought the Middle East rights and World Cup ball manufacturer Adidas extended through 2030.

The 48-year-old Swiss industrialist suggests some members do not want him there and others did not realize how seriously he would work. FIFA pays Scala ''normal compensation you would expect from a board member.''

''But you don't expect me to discuss it,'' said the vice chairman of Basilea Pharmaceutica AG. Its 2013 financial report states he earned almost $226,000 in salary and stock options last year.

Scala expects to continue through the next FIFA presidential term until 2019 - the likely end of the Blatter era, when the five-term leader would be 83 and a FIFA employee for 44 years.

He acknowledges needing top-level help to continue reforming FIFA culture, and does not see Blatter as the biggest obstacle to change.

''It is a 100-year-old animal,'' Scala said of FIFA, founded in 1904. ''Who am I to think I can change it in two years?''