The committee overseeing reform at Fifa will decide in April whether it will conduct an investigation into the widespread allegations of past corruption at the highest levels of world football's governing body. Mark Pieth, appointed by Fifa to chair the new independent governance committee, said it would examine how Fifa responds to his committee's reform recommendations when the organisation's decision-making executive committee next meets, in Zurich on 29 and 30 March.Pieth's turnabout on the issue of whether the past matters is in line with recommendations made by Transparency International and also a set of journalists who protested the scope of the committee's investigation.
"We will decide then, after that meeting at the end of March, whether there should be an investigation into the more serious allegations of the past," Pieth told the Guardian. "We want to see Fifa's responses to our recommendations for future reform and other issues, including how seriously they deal with allegations themselves. If we are not satisfied with the response, all options are open to us, including setting up a commission with specialist investigators."
But here is the fundamental problem with his approach: The FIFA committee only has standing because it is a body of FIFA. If FIFA decides to shut it down after the initial report, then there is no recourse. There is no other body with formal standing in a position to investigate FIFA (aside from the Swiss legal system under which FIFA is incorporated). Thus, all of Pieth's leverage exists right now, while he is the chair of the committee. He should recognize that while he may say in public that "all actions are open to us" at the same time all options are open to FIFA as well, and in this instance FIFA holds the trump card.
Kicking the can down the road on whether or not to investigate FIFA's past has a predictable outcome. Let's see what happens in April.