Reforming FIFA: We Have a Long Way to Go

04/06/2015  -  12.23

Professor Graham Brooks

Professor Graham Brooks, Professor in Criminology and Course Leader for MSc Cybercrime, School of Criminology 

Since Sepp Blatter announced his resignation as FIFA president there has, understandably, been much media coverage welcoming this event. However, as some have mentioned there is little to rejoice about if Sepp Blatter is simply replaced by another member of FIFA that is tainted with accusations of corruption and/or does nothing to radically alter how FIFA is run.

There will be resistance to any change, particularly from those nations, and individuals, that have benefitted from Sepp Blatter’s reign. It is therefore too early to celebrate the temporary demise of Sepp Blatter, as he made it clear that he will still be around to help chose his successor, and the majority of the FIFA representatives voted for Sepp Blatter to continue as president even as members of FIFA were arrested. It appears then, that FIFA is incapable of reform.

Rather than reiterate what has already been said in the media about FIFA, this article makes suggestions on how to change the culture at FIFA and put in place an anti-corruption culture. This will be a difficult task, but unless embarked on, and fulfilled, FIFA will continue to act the same way. Many nations and individuals have secured funds from FIFA as the commercial revenue from sponsors has substantially increased, with some spent on worthwhile projects. The task before FIFA then is to continue to dispense funds on worthwhile projects but remove the egregious attitude of personal enrichment. FIFA can achieve so much more that is worthwhile, and below, I make suggestions on how this could be achieved. These are:

  • A anti-corruption culture in the organisation
  • Limited term as president of FIFA
  • Limited term on executive board
  • A designated person with responsibility for a strategic anti-corruption strategy
  • Employment of and/or access to professionally trained counter corruption/fraud specialists
  • An Independent external body that members can raise ethical issues with
  • Pursuit of civil and criminal sanctions if individuals/member associations  break the law
  • Pursuit of financial redress  if individuals/member associations  break the law
  • External audits of accounts
  • Publish how all funds are spent, projects costs and completion
  • Publish financial remuneration of executive board
  • Demand that potential sponsors have a clear anti-corruption/fraud strategy in place before allowing them to win contract with FIFA    

These are only a few suggestions and should not be viewed as a ‘pick and mix’ type approach where some elements are of use more than others; it is the sum of parts, when employed in combination which have the potential to prevent, reduce and hopefully deter those that seek personal enrichment at the expense of FIFA and those that care about football.   

No organisation should be satisfied with a strategy that exists on paper, or one that is subject to exposure via investigative journalism. Since the accusations currently laid at FIFA are money laundering, fraud and racketeering, it appears that it either has a culture of acceptance where key individuals sought personal enrichment, and/or no clear strategy in place to prevent his behaviour.

FIFA needs a change of culture and a robust strategy to regain credibility and prevent the current debacle from recurring. FIFA should not be the news, as it has been; it should simply focus on organising major football tournaments. 

Graham Brooks is Professor of Criminology and Course Leader in Cybercrime and  specialises in fraud and corruption in sport, money laundering and gambling, and state capture and corruption. Prof Brooks was lead author of Fraud, Corruption and Sport (2013)