Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wrage Discovers FIFA's Faustian Bargain

Writing in the FT last week, Roger Blitz reveals that FIFA is only willing to go so far and no further on its reform efforts. What is the latest point of contention? The inclusion of women in FIFA governance (I kid you not). 

Blitz writes:
The Independent Governance Committee, set up by Fifa president Sepp Blatter to combat accusations of inertia over dealing with investigating corruption allegations, recommended the reform and nominated four women for the eight seats on the investigatory and adjudicatory chambers.

But Alexandra Wrage, an IGC member, said she was told at the lunch the nomination of any female candidates was “entirely unacceptable”.

Ms Wrage told the Financial Times: “They sat down next to me, two senior Fifa executives. They said, ‘you are pushing too hard, leave this for another time. You’ve made a lot of progress, you should be content.’ It was so clear-cut, it was expressly stated.”

Ms Wrage, who advises companies on anti-bribery compliance, declined to reveal the identity of the officials who, she said, had created an atmosphere of “unapologetic chauvinism”.

She added: “I was gobsmacked. We were making progress in this environment. I guess you have to admire their candour.”

Her account was corroborated by Guillermo Jorge, another IGC member, in an email to the FT.
The revelations can't be said to be terribly surprising to anyone paying attention to FIFA "reform." Though, it was only three weeks ago that Alexandra Wrage enthusiastically applauded FIFA efforts as being on the "threshold of reform."

Like Transparency International, it seems that TRACE International, which is led by Wrage, is learning about FIFA's commitment to reform through hard lessons of experience. Now she is talking about resigning from the IGC. It is hard to see how she can remain.

For his part Mark Pieth had some very strong criticisms of FIFA:
Mark Pieth, IGC chairman, said: “What this demonstrates is that this is an organisation which has a really long way to go. Gender issues are part of the governance issue, and they don’t seem to understand that.

“If you were to defend that attitude, you would say they are a boys’ club and they are in a transition phase.”

The IGC is expected to hold a conference call in the next few days to discuss how to respond. Ms Wrage said she was uncertain whether she could continue serving on the IGC.

Mr Pieth added: “What doesn’t surprise me is that this organisation has a problem with women in their ranks. That is typical. Obviously I’m saddened that we have to deal with this issue as well, but it just means more work.

“They need a kick from outside. I think it’s serious.”
If Wrage resigns from the committee it will do great damage to the FIFA 'reform" process, such as it is. However, if she stays, it will do great damage to her own credibility. Like Mark Pieth before her, Wrage is learning that binding oneself to FIFA can be a Faustian bargain. It looks like Placido Domingo got off easy.


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