FIFA: Reform Not Disbandment Needed


It’s big, it’s huge, it’s quite possibly the sporting story of 2015! Do not be surprised if the FIFA corruption scandal and subsequent Blatter resignation ranks the top sports story of 2015 come the new year! In it’s wake, seemingly everyone has something to say about it. Worldwide, views are mixed, everything from anger, fear, relief, joy, paranoia and all emotions in between have been and will continue to be plastered all over the various media platforms.

In the aftermath of Blatter’s resignation one of the many reports I read was a Forbes article titled: “Sepp Blatter Resigning From FIFA Will Boost Value Of World Cup“. It’s final paragraph read as follows:

“Long term, the best way to minimize the sport’s corruption is to dismantle FIFA. There is no reason soccer needs a huge, global governing body. Getting rid of the layers of bureaucracy will make it easier to weed out the bad guys.”

Needlesstosay, I disagreed with this statement and echoed what the vast majority of people worldwide are saying, FIFA needs reform, not disbandment. I’ve often said unless you have solutions or alternatives to offer the public record, your opinions and criticism is just background noise. So right or wrong, plausible or not, putting my money where my mouth is, here’s my take on possible measures to help reform FIFA.

FIFA Mission Statement
“FIFA’s mission is develop football everywhere and for all, to touch the world through its inspiring tournaments and to build a better future through the power of the game.”

It’s important to acknowledge and understand FIFA’s mission statement before dissecting that which is bad and offering alternatives because it is their mission that many believe the organization has lost sight of throughout this corruption scandal. It’s also important because all measures I suggest can be directly related back to this mission statement.

Mandatory Time Limits
Perhaps the most obvious first step that everyone is calling for – Time Limits in office. It’s common fact that government and organizational structures that see little or no personnel change over an extended period of time can lose sight of their mission goals, fail to evolve with its dynamic membership and develop a sense of entitlement. Limiting the Executive Committee (ExCo) terms to a maximum of eight years or two consecutive terms would foster fresh ideas, beliefs and outlooks that would provide a modern governance structure with the ability to thrive and adapt to the changes both in the game and its surrounding world.

Equitable Distribution of Funds
Currently FIFA distributes funds equitably among all 209 member associations. Some feel aggrieved that a country of 300,000,000 with over a hundred thousand registered players should get the same funding as say a small island nation of 1,000,000 and perhaps only a couple thousand registered players. I wholeheartedly disagree. This is one of the few things FIFA is doing very well and equitable funding must remain intact. Going back to FIFA’s mission, their goal is to develop the game everywhere and for all; this funding is the only financial source for many of these members to make that happen.

That said, we know that in many instances this money is not being directed appropriately to promote and grow the game in some member nations. Thus this money ought to come with a few strings attached, namely that it is directly provided to the national member association for the sole use of promoting and growing the game of football within its own borders. A set of acceptable expenses this money could be used for would be developed and an audit of all provided funds would be required to ensure compliance. Acceptable expenses may include the establishment or maintenance of national domestic leagues, development and implementation of training centres and or national curriculums or coach education just to name a few worthy causes. Non-compliance would result in funding being revoked until the people(s) responsible for the misappropriation of funds are identified and removed from office.

FIFA Congress
Reform never comes without controversy and this talking point might spark the height of it all. Currently, FIFA uses the 1 member, 1 vote rule by which all 209 member associations have a voice at FIFA. We have seen this system regularly used or more appropriately abused by confederations forcing their members to vote as a “block” to reflect the view of the confederation rather than the views of the association. This is in fact largely how Sepp Blatter has remained in power for so long.

I propose that having a voice at FIFA is a privilege not a right. A privilege that is earned through responsible promotion and growth of the game nationally. Let’s be clear, this would not impact FIFA’s equitable funds distribution to all 209 members. As per FIFA’s mission, football must be developed everywhere and for all but national associations can’t do that without financial support. FIFA funding to help develop the game should be a right to all while having a voice to help steer its direction ought to be an earned privilege.

Arbitrarily speaking, what if the top 100 ranked associations or perhaps the top ⅔ of ranked associations had voting rights. Acknowledging the grave fallacies of the FIFA ranking system, perhaps an entirely different system gets devised to determine voting status, at this point it’s irrelevant because it’s the message here that’s most important. The message is that associations must use all their resources, including those provided by FIFA, wisely and responsibly to improve the state of game within their borders and to improve their standing among FIFA members.

A dynamic, incentive driven congress elevates everyone’s desire to do better and with that comes real progress. The lucky nations to hold voting rights can’t become complacent with the status quo, they must continually strive to be better to maintain that voting membership. Likewise for the nations falling short, they will work hard to gain that voice and that distinction for if they do not, how valuable is that voice? An environment of equal say and equal pay does little to drive innovation and progress rather it leaves us with what we have now, an “old boys club.”

FIFA Executive Committee (ExCo)
As outlined in the FIFA Statutes, the current 25 member ExCo consists of the president, elected by the congress; 1 female member, elected by congress; 8 vice presidents, 1 appointed from each regional confederation with Europe given two additional for a total of 3 VP’s; and 15 members, with each confederation ranging in members from 0 for the OFC up to 5 for UEFA which are appointed by their respective regional confederation.

The role of the FIFA ExCo includes determining the dates, locations and format of tournaments, appointing FIFA delegates to the IFAB and electing and dismissing the General Secretary on the proposal of the FIFA President. (Art. 30 and 31 of the Statutes). This does not require a bloated 25 member board.

I would trim the ExCo to 19 members: 1 president elected by congress, 6 vice presidents, one elected by each regional confederation; and 12 members, with two elected from each regional confederation. This would provide equal representation worldwide regardless of confederation size. Some will immediately pounce and cry foul as this system would significantly reduce UEFA’s influence while increasing that of CONCACAF, CONMEBOL and the OFC in the FIFA ExCo. I don’t see this as a problem because realistically the single greatest responsibility of the ExCo is determining the location of events since general dates and formats are largely consistent and rarely up for review. Also with strict rules and bidding processes on events already in place intended to equitably distribute hosting privileges of FIFA events, the decision making process for ExCo members is made lighter through regulation.

Gender Equality
You may have noticed my proposed ExCo system eliminated the lone, symbolic female member. This is because I propose of the three members appointed by each confederation, 1 VP and 2 regular, at least one must be female. This would result in a jump from 1 female member to a minimum of 6 female members or a minimum of 32% representation within the FIFA ExCo. With the exploding growth of the female game, it is imperative to have a greater female representation involved in the decision making processes designed to grow the game.

Secretary General
Currently the Secretary General is installed by the ExCo; however, only the President may propose the appointment or dismissal of the Secretary General. As the right hand to the president, the Secretary General is closest to the president and likely the second most familiar with FIFA affairs at any given time, essentially making them the second most powerful member of the organization.

I propose the power of nomination and election of Secretary General be removed from the president and the ExCo and be placed into the hands of the congress. Anyone would be free to run for the termed position but like the president must be voted in by congress.

Under the current system, if the President is absent or unavailable, the longest-serving vice-president available shall deputise. I believe this person should be the Secretary General in the interim until a new president is elected. With the introduction of term lengths, it’s likely there will no longer be a “longest-serving” vice president. The easiest and most fair way to fill the void is with the only other high ranking FIFA official elected by congress to step in. It makes further sense given the close proximity of their work under the past president and their intimate knowledge of the current organizational affairs.

The aforementioned points are but a few suggestions that could help make significant changes within FIFA for the betterment of the organization and its mission mandated growth of the game. There are likely hundreds, maybe thousands of complimentary or better possible changes available. The state of the organization is such that literally anything, regardless of how profound or simple it may be, would all but guarantee improvement in perhaps the worst run yet most necessary sporting body in the world.

The final paragraph of that Forbes article should have read:
“Long term, the best way to minimize the sport’s corruption is not to dismantle FIFA rather reform it. The only truly global sport needs a dynamic global governing body. Getting rid of the layers of bureaucracy will make it easier to weed out the bad guys.”