Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Truth or Whitewash?

Writing at The Guardian, David Conn has an excellent post up on the fork in the road now faced by Mark Pieth and the reset of the "independent good governance committee" appointed by FIFA:
Football's world governing body, Fifa, could from Thursday face a watershed investigation into the corruption allegations lapping at its gates, or its Zurich HQ could be slapped with another coat of whitewash. The decision rests with the grandly titled independent governance committee, set up by Sepp Blatter, Fifa's president, to oversee the organisation's reform. Mark Pieth, professor of criminology at the Basel Institute, appointed by Blatter to chair this committee, told the Guardian that at Thursday's inaugural meeting it will consider an examination into what has been happening at Fifa.

"It is a matter for the independent governance committee to decide whether it is going to call for a fuller investigation into the past," Pieth said, "and who should be conducting it."

That will be a defining decision for a process that has struggled to attain any credibility since Blatter unveiled it in October, as the lead vehicle in what the 75-year-old termed his road map for reform.
As usual, Transparency International's Sylvia Schenk has some smart things to say:
The anti‑corruption organisation Transparency International, whose co-operation in charting the road map was liberally name-dropped by Blatter at that unveiling, initially praised the initiative but then refused an invitation to sit on the committee. Sylvia Schenk, TI's senior adviser for sport, questioned Pieth's independence from Fifa, because Fifa has already paid his institute, reportedly CHF120,000 (£85,000), for writing a preparatory report, Governing Fifa. Schenk also reiterated TI's recommendation in its own report that any reform must begin with an investigation and genuine clean-up of the governing body's past. . .

Schenk, of Transparency International, said a full investigation is vital if faith in Fifa is to be established. "You cannot go into the future and have credibility if you have many allegations about Fifa and senior people still there," she says.

Schenk explains how an organisation with a genuine will to reform would conduct such a process: "You appoint a body to conduct the investigation, for example a specialist law firm. They would look at the serious allegations and invite people to come forward confidentially with evidence. Then they would review which allegations are serious, and which evidence credible, for full investigation. Now you can say the ISL allegations are serious, as are those about Sepp Blatter's election."

Pieth's own report said the World Cup bidding process is open to "corruption, risk and conflict of interest concerns". Schenk says an investigation ought certainly to include the circumstances of awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, and, she said, the 2006 event to Germany. "If you do not clear the allegations over such important matters, there can be no credibility for the future and there will be no peace for Fifa."
Pieth has found himself in a very difficult situation, somewhat of his own making. Given the composition of the committee, I would not be surprised to see the committee explain that an investigation into the past must be done, and someone should do it ... but just not them.


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