March 30, 2012 5:48 pm

Fifa rapped over handling of graft claims

Fifa’s handling of a raft of bribery and vote-rigging allegations was inadequate and the sanctions it imposed on wrongdoers “clearly unconvincing”, according to an independent report on the much-maligned football governing body.

Fifa had shown “a lack of pro-active and systematic follow-up on allegations” and in some instances “allegations were insufficiently investigated”, said a report from the Independent Governance Committee, established by Sepp Blatter, Fifa president, and headed by Mark Pieth , Swiss criminology professor.

The IGC quizzed Fifa over five sets of allegations, including alleged vote-rigging during the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids and unsubstantiated claims made by a would-be whistleblower over the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid.

Mr Pieth and his 12 colleagues opened up the possibility of Fifa re-examining past allegations. It said a new Fifa code of ethics should be drawn up and reviewed by the IGC.

“Whereas the substantive rules will not be retroactive, procedures and organisational measures will be applicable to past behaviour,” the IGC said.

Mr Blatter, re-elected to a fourth term last year, has been badly damaged by the allegations and Fifa’s handling of them. Fifa was rocked last year by a leaked email from Jerome Valcke, Fifa’s secretary-general, which suggested that Qatar had “bought” the World Cup.

Mr Valcke argued he had been misinterpreted and Qatar has vigorously denied any improper behaviour.

Responding to the report, Mr Blatter said Fifa would implement a series of IGC reform proposals. These include a new two-chamber ethics committee, independently led and separating the investigation of allegations from their adjudication.

Asked about one set of historic allegations, an alleged bribery scandal involving ISL, Fifa’s former marketing partner, Mr Blatter told a press conference at Fifa’s headquarters in Zurich: “The new ethics committee will have the possibility to initiate investigations in the case of credible allegations. It’s a possibility.”

In its report, the IGC said: “Overall, the answers by Fifa regarding the handling of alleged misconduct were not fully satisfactory to the IGC.”

The IGC criticised Fifa’s approach to allegations, saying it expected complaints to be aired through the proper channels, and complainants to produce evidence.

Sanctions imposed by Fifa on culprits were “at times insufficient and clearly unconvincing”.

The committee said Fifa would not let it see documents relating to the ISL case, Fifa arguing that it was legally not able to release it.

Mr Pieth said in an FT interview last week that an independent body could investigate past allegations.

Mr Blatter has sought to take the initiative on Fifa’s governance problems by claiming to be an enthusiast for reform at the governing body.

In a series of tweets ahead of his press conference, he claimed the two-chamber ethics committee was an idea he had proposed last June. Mr Blatter said he was “delighted that the [Fifa] executive committee has agreed to back me on this crucial reform”.

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