After a triumphant World Cup, widely lauded for showcasing football at its very best, cold reality must now bite for the sport's governing body.
Calls for reform of Fifa are getting louder and closer to home.
No sooner had Germany triumphantly lifted the golden statue than the Chairman of the English Football Association, Greg Dyke, publicly ruled out any hope of England bidding to host the World Cup again until the process is reformed. Appearing in front of the UK Parliamentary Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Mr Dyke made clear the FA's opposition to Sepp Blatter standing for Fifa president a fifth time next year - his presence being seen as a barrier to much-needed reforms around structure and governance at the organisation.
Others have similarly raised concerns. What started as serious disquiet around the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar became major allegations of corruption uncovered by The Sunday Times, which have led to calls to strip Qatar of the 2022 World Cup. The Institute of Directors has been among the many critical voices which have since stated that the current power structure at the governing body of world football is both dysfunctional and unaccountable.
The whole affair has created such unease it is hard to see how FIFA cannot be affected by it but its response to date has fallen far short. It recently announced that the results of an investigation conducted by its chief investigator, Michael Garcia, into possible ethics violations in the bidding process will not be made public. The findings are due to be submitted to the adjudicatory chamber of Fifa's ethics committee before the end of July. This is simply not acceptable and could lead to accusations of a cover-up.
Fifa's problems (and there are many of them) stem from the fact that its governance has not evolved in a way that reflects the massive complexity and global prominence of its activities. As a consequence, it has proved unable to deliver effective leadership, accountability, transparency, clean business practices and public confidence.
Fifa has to face up to the decision-making processes which are routinely scrutinised and alleged to be dishonest or improperly influenced. In the last four years, four members of its Executive Committee have been forced out on the basis of suspicions of bribery. For such a large and important global organisation, such negative perceptions are unsustainable.
A report by Fifa's Independent Governance Committee (Chaired by Professor Mark Pieth) was published in April 2014. It makes a number of recommendations for reform which have yet to be adopted but should be implemented as a matter of urgency, starting with the call for independent members to be added to the Fifa Executive Committee.
But as important as this measure is, it's nowhere near enough.
Fifa's Executive Committee should be transformed into a modern board of directors containing a significant number of directly elected independent board members. These independent members need to be selected on the basis of merit and expertise by the Fifa Congress. Furthermore, instead of a president, there should be a separate chairman and CEO. Both moves would create a board that is better capable of promoting the success of the organisation in a professional and objective manner. It would also be properly accountable in its pursuit of Fifa's mission and objectives.
We would also support Professor Pieth's recommendation of a fundamental review of Fifa's key processes and policies, including those relating to World Cup hosting decisions, the governance of development projects, campaigns for the Fifa presidency and marketing/procurement activities. Independent directors can play a key role in the oversight of all of these key processes.
World football is supported by vast amounts of money which have provided Fifa's board with a protective blanket; a veil behind which it has sought to operate its unaccountable and dysfunctional structure. However, public unrest is growing and with it, the need for change. Fifa now has the opportunity to become a shining example of best practice in global sports governance rather than an increasingly scorned pariah.
It may still believe it can withstand international pressure for reform from outside bodies. But it may be less immune to pressure exerted by its main corporate sponsors (Adidas, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Hyundai, Sony and Visa) and their shareholders, none of whom are surely going to want their global brand reputations tarnished through association. The question is at what point will they step in? If they are not inclined to take on Fifa, then we suggest that the Swiss regulatory authorities (in whose jurisdiction Fifa is incorporated as a not-for-profit organisation) should consider what regulatory tools they can draw upon.
And other regional football confederations and the Fifa Congress should follow the FA's lead and speak out, rather than continue to support a discredited framework for the governance of global football. It is not in anyone's best interest to remain silent much longer.
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