Friday, December 2, 2011

FIFA and TI: An Inevitable Divorce

Well, it was inevitable. Transparency International has dramatically severed its relationship with FIFA. As it seeks to develop practices of 'good governance" FIFA has leaned heavily on TI for advice and credibiltiy, while repeated ignoring key recommendations on reform from TI.  Sylvia Schenk, who was to be TI's representative on the FIFA "good governance committee," has stated that TI will not be participating in the reform process, prompting a very public and acrimonious break-up.

The BBC reports:
A corruption watchdog that was advising Fifa after a series of bribery and corruption scandals, has cut its ties with world football's governing body.

An official with Transparency International (TI) said two of its key recommendations had been ignored.

TI said Fifa paying an expert to oversee major reforms to how it is run would jeopardise his independence.

The expert, Mark Pieth, said he would not re-examine old scandals, another recommendation of TI.
The move is being viewed by many as a blow to the credibility of Fifa's reform process, which has been led by its President Sepp Blatter, says BBC sports news correspondent Alex Capstick.

Fifa has declined to comment on TI's move.
The precipitating move, certainly the final straw in a series, was the appointment of Pieth as chair of the "good governance committee." Pieth has a fundamental conflict of interest in the job, due to being on the FIFA payroll as a consultant. Bloomberg reports:
Sylvia Schenk, senior adviser for sport, said the organization turned down an invitation to join FIFA’s outside governance committee because its chairman Mark Pieth is being paid by the soccer body and also after Pieth said he wouldn’t be looking at allegations of past wrongdoing.

“All members of the commission are supposed to be independent,” Schenk said in a telephone interview. “You can’t be independent if you have a contract with FIFA.”
Schenck's point is so obvious that it is remarkable that it has to be made. Pieth defends his compensated role as being common practice for businesses who hire consultants to evaluate their business practices. But this is no consulting job.

Pieth's comments suggest that both he and FIFA are utterly unaware of the role of the committee or the depth of FIFA's troubles.  The "good governance committee" is not in place to evaluate FIFA's business practices, but rather to investigate corruption in the organization and set a road map for good governance into the future.  As such, the credibility and legitimacy of the committee are precious resources, now squandered. When FIFA says that the committee is to be "independent" it makes a mockery of the process by hiring a chairperson.

To get a sense of FIFA's blunder, imagine the reaction if BP had hired the chair of an "independent" investigation into the Gulf oil spill or if Bank of America had hired the chair of the Congressional investigation of the subprime mortgage meltdown. Such a relationship is laughable in those cases, as it is with FIFA hiring its own "independent" chair.

Transparency International has the stellar reputation that it does because it not only understands good governance, but it practices what it preaches. FIFA does neither. Always questionable, FIFA's "reform" effort now stands completely discredited. Kudos to TI for doing the right thing.

Where does FIFA go from here?


Post a Comment