By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
February 26, 2016 will long be remembered in world football and go down in the annals of FIFA as a momentous day!
A day on which an Extraordinary Congress, comprising 209 Member Associations of FIFA, from around the world, meeting at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, approved a set of what have been described as ‘landmark’ measures, designed to reform the organisation, which has been mired in scandals, and, just as important, elected a new President to replace the old guard led for such a long time - and many would say too long - by Sepp Blatter and his cronies.
The main reform measures designed to strengthen the governance of FIFA and its Member Associations are the following:
- the replacement of the FIFA Executive Committee by a FIFA Council
- a clear separation between ‘political’ and ‘management’ functions with the new Council setting the policy and the general secretariat carrying it out
- term limits for the President, Council members, Audit and Compliance Committee members and members of the FIFA judicial bodies (maximum 12 years)
- election of Council members to be subject to comprehensive eligibility and integrity checks conducted by an independent FIFA review committee
- recognition and promotion of women in football with at least one female representative on the Council from each Confederation
- disclosure annually of compensation of the President, Council members, the Secretary General and Chairpersons of independent standing and judicial committees
- enhanced control of money flows
- universal good governance principles for Confederations and Member Associations
- a commitment to Human Rights to be enshrined in the FIFA Statutes
- a new football stakeholder committee to include representatives of players, clubs and leagues
The new President is Gianni Infantino, for the past seven years, the Secretary General of UEFA, the European Football Governing Body. The general view seems to be that he is a good choice, coming, as he does, from outside FIFA, but with the necessary experience and qualifications of a top football administrator. He is Swiss-Italian, a lawyer, 45 years old and only the third President of FIFA in forty years following the reigns of Blatter and Havelange!
On being elected to his new position, Infantino remarked:
“I want to work with all of you together in order to restore and rebuild a new era of FIFA where we can put again football at the centre of the stage. FIFA has gone through sad times, moments of crisis. But those times are over. We enter now a new era. We’ll restore the image of FIFA and make sure that everybody will be happy with what we do. I don’t agree that football is divided. Today was an election, not a war. I’m a candidate of the whole world and football. We have to build bridges, not walls.”
A rallying call indeed to the ‘world-wide football family’, but will he make the difference that is needed and be able to reform FIFA and restore its integrity and respect, and, as he claims, bring football back to FIFA?
Time alone will tell, but all those who care about football will wish him well in his Herculean task of cleaning out the Augean Stables of FIFA!