World Football’s governing body, FIFA, will conduct its annual congressional meeting May 30-31, 2013 in Mauritius, a small group of islands off the southeastern coast of Africa (near Madagascar). Dubbed by many as “football’s parliament”, the FIFA Congress, among other things, approves the organization’s annual report, decides on the acceptance of new national associations, and holds elections for various leadership positions.
Following outbreaks of match fixing, money laundering, and other such scandals in recent years, the FIFA Executive Committee agreed to construct a “reform roadmap” to address the many issues it faces. Acting in accordance with this roadmap, the FIFA Executive Committee met on March 21, 2013 to discuss and agree upon the remaining governance reform proposals (Click here for a full recap of the meeting as given by FIFA).
The first proposal deals with the confirmation of the members of the FIFA Executive Committee. There were a number of clauses in this proposal, but the most important to call out was the requirement for each candidate for the Executive Committee to submit to an integrity check, to be conducted by the FIFA Ethics Committee (except for the positions of Chairman, Deputy Chairman, or any position on the FIFA Ethics Committee, which will be conducted by the Audit & Compliance Committee). Essentially, candidates for FIFA Executive Committee members must undergo, and pass, a background check.
Another key proposal was with regard to the qualifications of candidates for the position of President. The new proposal states that in order for a candidate to be eligible for election he/she must have played an active role in association football for at least 2 of the last 5 years, and his/her candidacy must be supported by at least 5 member associations. These two new stipulations are an attempt to make sure that candidates have current experience with association football, and that they have at least garnered a minimal level of support from FIFA member associations, which ensures some degree of member approval.
One of the hottest topics in recent years has been the process by which the host country for the FIFA World Cup™ is chosen. Some new stipulations were added to the proposals with this subject in mind:
- FIFA Congress will make the decision on the venue for the FIFA World Cup™ based on a list of up to 3 bids, which will be submitted by the FIFA Executive Committee.
- The FIFA General Secretariat will provide the FIFA Executive Committee with a report on each potential host country, which evaluates them on their compliance with the bidding procedure and the requirements for hosting the event.
- FIFA Congress may not decide on more than one FIFA World Cup™ host country per meeting (equates to no more than one decision per year as congressional meetings are held annually).
- No country may host the FIFA World Cup™ consecutively.
The Executive Committee decided that two of the reform proposals would be submitted to the FIFA Congress for a vote during the 2013 session: Term of Office, and Age Limit for holding office.
FIFA has been under pressure in recent years to address the corruption crawling out from the woodworks. These Executive Committee reforms are an attempt at doing just that. The Joao Havelange World Cup kickback scandal, which broke in the summer of 2012, was one of the instances of corruption at the top levels of FIFA that brought the seriousness and depth of the issue to public light. Havelange’s character was brought into question, and rightfully so, when a Swiss prosecutor’s report surfaced illuminating that Havelange had accepted kickbacks from Swiss marketing firm ISL in the 1990s (Click here for full ESPN article on the matter).
The general public has not been satisfied with efforts from FIFA’s leaders to address these issues, and more keep popping up around the world (i.e. recent match-fixing in Aisia and now potentially South Africa). Hopefully these new proposals, with stipulations such as integrity checks for candidates for its leadership positions, are a sign that FIFA is trying to step up their game, and trying to regain some of its credibility as an organization and as a governing body.