Football: Fifa reforms signal new era

Three-term limit for president as huge majority approves structural overhaul

The sentiments of the slogan displayed on the main screen dominating the extraordinary Fifa congress in Zurich yesterday were echoed by the majority of delegates, with 179 votes to 22 in favour of a package of comprehensive reforms.
The sentiments of the slogan displayed on the main screen dominating the extraordinary Fifa congress in Zurich yesterday were echoed by the majority of delegates, with 179 votes to 22 in favour of a package of comprehensive reforms.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

ZURICH • Fifa members yesterday approved the deepest reforms in its 112-year history in an attempt to put years of scandal and crisis behind it and transform itself into a trusted sporting organisation.

Fifa delegates voted by 179 votes to 22 to accept the reforms, which include replacing the executive committee with a 36-member Fifa council, and limiting the president and other senior officials to three terms of four years.

A new professional general secretariat, akin to a company's executive board, will handle the business side of Fifa, leaving the 36-member council, elected by national member associations and including at least six women, to focus on broad matters of policy and strategy.

Both bodies will be overseen by a fully independent audit and compliance committee.

Francois Carrard, the independent chairman of the reform committee, presented the 62-page document to delegates, saying football's world governing body had a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

  • The key reforms

  • Separation of political and managerial functions

    The Fifa council will replace the executive committee and is responsible for setting the organisation's overall strategic direction. The general secretariat will oversee the operational and commercial actions required to execute the strategy.

  • Term limits

    The Fifa president, Fifa council members and members of the audit and compliance committee and of the judicial bodies can serve for a maximum of 12 years.

  • Disclosure of salaries

    The Fifa president, all Fifa council members, the secretary general and relevant chairpersons of independent standing and judicial committees are required to reveal their individual compensation on an annual basis.

  • Promotion of women in football

    A minimum of one female representative will be elected as a council member per confederation.

"The reforms are necessary to bring a profound culture change to Fifa. There will be more democracy, there will be better governance through a separation of powers in the council, there will be more transparency, and more places for women," he said.

"This reform package will provide the foundation for the new president and the new leadership on which to build for the future."

Outgoing president Sepp Blatter, 79, was the big absentee at the congress. The Swiss suffered a spectacular fall in the space of the last nine months.

Swiss police arrested seven Fifa officials in Zurich two days before his re-election last May. Criminal investigations in the United States and Switzerland have since resulted in the indictment of several dozen football officials and other entities for corruption, many of them serving or former presidents of national or continental associations.

Blatter is currently banned from football for six years for ethics breaches along with European football chief Michel Platini.

Fifa has also been forced to investigate a number of controversies surrounding the awarding of its biggest showcase, the World Cup Finals, especially the decision to grant the 2018 tournament to Russia and the 2022 edition to Qatar.

The new proposals placed a greater onus on continental confederations and national associations to police themselves.

Only one delegate spoke against the proposals, which have been drawn up over the last eight months.

Chilean-born Gonzalo Boye, representing Palestine, said the reforms would not bring transparency. "There will be no balance or counter-balance in the new council," he said.

The more anticipated vote yesterday surrounded the presidency, with the number of hopefuls vying to turn the page on Blatter's tainted 18-year term reduced to four just minutes before the first round.

Following the withdrawal of South African tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, Swiss Gianni Infantino, Jordan's Prince Ali Al-Hussein and Frenchman Jerome Champagne were the remaining candidates.

The poll result was not available by press time.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'FIFA REFORMS SIGNAL NEW ERA'. Subscribe