FIFA, Governance and Accountability

Governance refers to a system of political co-ordination among agencies or an organisation seeking to resolve common purposes or resolve collective problems through making and implementing norms, rules, programmes and policies.

Good governance involves accountability, democracy, transparency, agreed norms and a high degree of trust both within and outside of the organisation. It also requires the evaluation of risk.

Governance remains a key challenge for many sports organisations. In week 2 we looked at the background to the new steps taken by the new FIFA President in 2016.

Football is a multi-billion dollar organisation with estimated reserves of $1.5 billion US dollars. It governs the world’s most popular game and is itself governed by Swiss law. It has had nine Presidents, all male, since its foundation in 1904. And it had several officials arrested one week before the biggest sports tournament for women in the world.

The FIFA Arrests

The arrests on 26 May 2015 included top football officials. The focus of the alleged charges covers a 20-year period, with one law official quoted as saying:

“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did.”

Those arrested included at the time, nine current or former FIFA officials, and four individual and two corporate defendants, including a former CONCAF general secretary. The majority of the scheme involves corruption over media and marketing rights to matches and tournaments.

Tackling Corruption

The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI did not immediately commented on the investigation. FIFA have been involved in corruption allegations before, but none involving charges of federal crimes in the U.S. courts. On matters of general criminal law, the Swiss authorities agreed to co-operate with the U.S. courts.

FIFA Communications Director at the time, Walter De Gregorio, insisted the organisation was continuing to reform, telling a news conference: “This is good for FIFA. It hurts, it is not easy, but it confirms we are on the right track.” He has since been replaced by Fabrice Jouhaud.

These arrests happened two days before Sepp Blatter was due to face Prince Ali bin al-Hussein in an election, as he sought a fifth term as FIFA President. He won that election but has since resigned.

The original Garcia report into FIFA has still to be published in full - Why has this not been published in full?

All candidates for the FIFA Presidency had to satisfy integrity checks, but will FIFA be able to create trust that the world’s most popular game is honest, accountable, transparent and democratic?

How FIFA behaves and creates a culture of good governance is incredibly important to the sport of football.

FIFA must address at least three issues:

Governance

Good governance implies transparency, accountability, justification for actions, evaluation of risk, and a high degree of trust both within and outside of organisations.

While FIFA governs world football, it does not govern the laws of the game. These are maintained by IFAB – the International Football Association Board. However at the heart of the FIFA issue is the need to put in place key principles of good governance – what should these be? Do they vary from place to place?

Power, money and football

Different countries and federations have benefited from the distribution of FIFA money. Historically the Executive Chairman has overseen the distribution of resources to countries.

It was interesting to see which way the six confederations voted in the 2015 presidential elections. The English FA and David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, have called for the then President to stand down, but Asia backed President Blatter, as did Vladimir Putin of Russia.

One of the criticisms of the 2010 FIFA World Cup was that large amounts of money that went into South Africa, but also came out. The suggestion being that the circulation of money was a way for individuals to maintain and develop a power base. No President from South Africa or indeed Africa has been elected President of FIFA and yet the game is hugely popular in that part of the world.

World Cup bids

The issues surrounding recent World Cup bids are not about a lack of desire to spread the game around the world. Improved governance, transparency and reform will not bring back the lives of those workers who have been employed to build the infrastructure.

Will the players be comfortable in the knowledge that they could be playing in stadiums whose construction has involved the death of so many migrant workers?

The investigations are ongoing at the time of this course and almost change on a weekly basis.

The new President Gianni Infantino, the ninth male was announced in February 2016 and has the huge responsibility of creating trust in world football so that the good news stories about football replace front page headlines about corruption, accountability and governance.

Obscuring the good football can do

As we have seen in this course, there are numerous examples all over the world where football has shown to be a force for good, a force for change. It has the ability to carry messages to huge audiences about racism, poverty and inequality, but recent headlines tend to obscure the progressive work that is done by organisations such as the Homeless World Cup.

Please note that the issues surrounding FIFA are ongoing and it is almost impossible to be completely up to date on this issue as new issues emerge almost weekly. What developments have you found in the current FIFA situation that you found particularly interesting?

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This article is from the free online course:

Football: More than a Game

The University of Edinburgh