FIFA’s Corruption Headache: Boardroom Rift Erupts Over Transparency Issues

Despite public and private demands for transparency regarding an investigative report detailing a corruption scandal, soccer's main governing body has chosen to keep the report under wraps. The decision has created friction within the organization's executive committee.

The biggest match in the game of soccer these days involves boardrooms, executive committees, and a report that the world may never see.

FIFA, the organization that governs the sport internationally and puts on the World Cup, has stoked controversy by choosing to keep secret a report of an investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Allegations of bribery have tainted the venue selection process, in which FIFA awarded the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively. After an 18-month investigation, FIFA leadership last week said it would not release the report, despite the wishes of Michael Garcia, the former New York district attorney whom FIFA hired to look into the bidding process and who wrote the 350-page report.

This has caused a rift within the soccer organization’s boardroom, with some members of FIFA’s own executive committee, including U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, backing Garcia’s call to release the report widely.

“If we’re going to truly support the idea of transparency and change within FIFA, it has to be made public in the truest meaning of the word,” Gulati told The New York Times last week. “That doesn’t mean only to the executive committee. It has to be more.”

But, according to a Times report two days later, FIFA President Sepp Blatter denied that the issue even came up at the executive committee meeting last week in Zurich. “There was not any request from any of these members to publish this report,” Blatter said.

In a statement last week, the chairman of FIFA’s independent ethics committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert, said the committee would issue a public statement about the report in November, but he did not promise that the document would be released. Meanwhile, a media release on the executive committee meeting noted that the committee “also demanded that the principle of confidentiality be respected, in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Ethics.”

The report, which The Guardian reports may include sanctions against some of those involved in the bidding process, comes as pressure is mounting for FIFA to move the 2022 Qatar tournament, due to both the bribery allegations and a more practical concern—the region’s extreme heat. Around the time of this year’s World Cup, the country’s capital city, Doha, reached a temperature of 117 degrees.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who opposes releasing a controversial report. (thesportreview.com/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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