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Fifa urged to adopt rotating presidency in post-Blatter era

Fifa urged to adopt rotating presidency in post-Blatter eraFifa should move to an EU-style rotating presidency to avoid future corruption scandals and because there are so few credible candidates to replace Sepp Blatter, according to the head of the body’s audit committee.

Domenico Scala said the six football confederations, representing the main global geographical regions, could take turns to lead world football’s governing body, which is based in Zurich.

Such a move would “address a number of governance issues”, he told the Financial Times in an interview in which he set out his proposals to reform the scandal-hit institution. If implemented, the reform would prevent any one individual from controlling international football in the way Mr Blatter did for 17 years.

Mr Scala, who said he was setting out his reform ideas to set a “benchmark”, was speaking as Fifa confirmed an election to choose Mr Blatter’s successor would be held on February 26.

Mr Blatter and Michel Platini, Uefa president and originally the favourite to succeed him, were suspended for 90 days by Fifa’s ethics committee this month after the Swiss authorities opened a criminal investigation into a SFr2m payment from Fifa to Mr Platini in 2011. The move in effective ended Mr Blatter’s career at the top of world football, although Uefa declined to suspend Mr Platini.

Mr Scala said Mr Platini could enter the leadership race at a later date, subject to an integrity check. But, he said, the “very short list of candidates for the presidency” was a reason for reforming Fifa’s leadership.

In future, Fifa presidents could hold office for two to four years, he suggested: “Every system which diminishes the power of individuals, and creates checks and balances, reduces the risk of misconduct. It would help eliminate the ‘old boys’ network’ and better represent the diversity of football worldwide.”

Fifa was thrown into turmoil in May with the arrest of seven officials in Zurich and US allegations that executives took bribes of $150m in a culture of “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption.

With Quinn Emanuel, the US law firm, also conducting internal investigations into Fifa’s activities, Mr Scala warned that more revelations about misconduct were likely. “You cannot exclude that more things might be found,” said the former finance chief at Syngenta, the Swiss agribusiness group.

The Swiss authorities’ investigations have focused on a SFr2m payment made in 2011 by Mr Blatter to Mr Platini, allegedly for work performed between 1999 and 2002. Mr Scala said the agreement had not been recorded in Fifa’s accounts until the payment occurred.

“That is a serious omission, and both parties were members of Fifa’s executive committee and knowingly approved each year financial statements, which were incorrect by SFr2m. That could be seen as falsification of the accounts.”

As well as heading Fifa’s audit committee, Mr Scala is also chairman of its ad hoc election committee, which will decide on the eligibility of candidates for the presidency. No decision would be taken on Mr Platini while his suspension remained in place, he said. That meant Mr Platini could, in theory, still have time to secure the necessary approvals before the February 26 contest.

Mr Scala last month published a paper on possible Fifa reforms, which included limiting the time football officials could remain in office and steps to reduce the power of the confederations.

Fifa’s executive committee should also be overhauled to create a governing board and a management board, Mr Scala told the FT. “This would split oversight and strategy from commercial activities and day-to-day activities. Because Fifa officials today have two or three responsibilities, there are inevitably conflicts of interest,” he said.

“If we implemented my reform proposals, we would have a well-run institution,” he added. “Fifa is obliged to deliver. If it doesn’t, it has no chance of changing perceptions about the institution. Doing nothing is not an option.”

The official committee that is laying out Fifa reforms gave its preliminary findings on Tuesday, saying the organisation’s executive committee, its main decision-making body, should be stripped of executive power and instead “oversee strategic matters”.

It compared the future role of the Fifa president with that of a company chairman, while the organisation’s general secretary would be its chief executive in charge of day-to-day management.

The committee — headed by Francois Carrard, the former International Olympic Committee director-general, who helped steer that body through its own corruption scandal in 1998 — said Fifa should impose a 12-year term limit and an age limit of 74 on its president.

In addition, senior officials should disclose their remuneration, and grants for developing football, which have allegedly been used as bribes in the past, should be audited by three independent committee members, it said.

“It is abundantly clear that football fans and our commercial partners will no longer accept anything short of full transparency in how football is governed,” a statement from the reform committee said.

Source: Financial Times
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