FIFA’s executive committee was set to open a crucial meeting on Wednesday with major reforms up for review, as outsiders voice doubt that world football’s tainted governing body is capable of fixing itself.
The reform package is the work of a panel led by Francois Carrard, who won praise for overhauling a graft-ridden International Olympic Committee more than a decade ago and is now tasked with a similar job at FIFA, mired in an unprecedented scandal.
At the two-day meeting at FIFA’s Zurich headquarters, Carrard’s proposals will be presented to the body’s top brass — minus its suspended president and vice president, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, the highest-profile casualties of the chaos within the organisation.
FIFA’s executive committee can demand changes to the reform plan, but if approved the package will be sent for adoption at a meeting of FIFA’s 209-member associations on February 26, when Blatter’s replacement will also be chosen.
A FIFA official, who requested anonymity, said that if the reforms are approved quickly this week, "it means their content is inadequate and won’t change much.
"However, if there is a debate, it’s a good sign."
The source’s comments point to the main obstacle facing the reform effort: it must be approved by individuals who may be accustomed to FIFA’s well-documented rotten ways.
In a preliminary report in October, Carrard’s panel floated the prospect of capping presidential terms at 12 years and barring those over 74 from serving on the executive committee.
It further suggested that compensation for senior officials be published annually and audited by an independent body. The executive committee would also be stripped of some powers.
Whether or not those reforms will ever come into force is not yet clear.
But some say that despite Carrard’s strong credentials, his mission is destined to fail, as his panel is dominated by FIFA-insiders, a clear departure from the lauded IOC clean-up team he led in the past.
"What is actually needed is an independent set of executives that have no ties in world football, walking in and cleaning this place up," said Declan Hill, author of ‘The Fix: soccer and organised crime’.
Hill, an expert on corruption in FIFA, described the Carrard panel as "an appearance of change, an appearance of reform."