Zurich — Electing a new president to replace Sepp Batter
might be the second most important vote FIFA takes on Friday.
Hours earlier, leaders of 209 member federations can approve
reforms designed to end a culture of corruption in world soccer that has been
laid bare by American and Swiss federal prosecutors.
FIFA legal advisers also badly want a "yes" vote
to help save its status as a victim of corruption in the eyes of the U.S.
Department of Justice.
Voting in favor will strip power from the new president and
tainted executive committee, and control top officials by imposing term limits
and stricter integrity checks.
More independent experts would oversee how FIFA earns and
spends $5 billion-plus from each four-yearly World Cup — income flow that dried
up as new sponsors stay away to see what kind of post-election partner they
"It is abundantly clear that football fans and FIFA's
commercial partners will no longer accept anything short of full transparency
in how football is governed," warned FIFA's in-house panel, including
presidential candidate Gianni Infantino, which drafted the reform slate.
The stunning American case has already indicted 41 people
and marketing agencies since May, alleging bribery conspiracies worth $200
million so far.
"There is a lot to fix about the way football
works," FIFA executive committee member Moya Dodd, a former Australia
international, acknowledged this week.
Dodd has been key to getting a greater role for women in a
new-look FIFA, which is poised to commit "to respecting all
internationally recognized human rights."
Also read: Sepp Blatter’s book about life at FIFA published this month
Out of FIFA's reputational weakness and leadership vacuum —
with Blatter and top administrator Jerome Valcke banned from office for
unethical behavior — has come a progressive agenda that was unthinkable in
Just as unlikely is that Issa Hayatou, FIFA's interim president,
will preach the need for change from the stage on Friday.
Hayatou has led African soccer for 28 years with two recent
election rule changes in his favor, and was reprimanded by the IOC in 2011 over
a cash payment from FIFA's disgraced former World Cup marketing agency.
The Cameroon official's response to wrongdoing allegations
at a December news conference in Zurich seemed at odds with FIFA's new pledge
of "responsibility, humility, tone at the top, respect and candor."
Still, Hayatou urged the 209 members this week to seize
their chance and give the 75 percent vote needed to update FIFA statutes.
Hayatou also warned of "difficult work ahead,"
with all confederations and members set a 2018 target by FIFA to adopt key
legal reforms. They include ending conflicts of interest in commercial
decisions, and guaranteeing independence in financial audits and judicial
That has seemed the toughest sell to voters, who often
ignored criticism of FIFA and Blatter by returning him to power.
"I didn't get any sense of people opposing it (the
reform package)," said Dodd, of the 47-member Asian soccer body's meeting
last week in Kuala Lumpur.
FIFA is weighing a scale of sanctions for missing the 2018
target, which could start with blocking funds from Zurich.
Regardless, change must start at the top, and FIFA could
look very different in 60 days from Friday when new legal rules would take
The toxic "executive committee" name would go,
replaced by a FIFA Council growing to 37 members over the next cycle of
continental elections. Six seats are reserved for women, who never sat on the
so-called ExCo until 2012 when FIFA was 108 years old.
Whoever is elected president on Friday will stay in office
for no more than 12 years, less than the 17-plus years of Blatter, and 24 under
his disgraced predecessor, Joao Havelange of Brazil.
Even if the new president is a prince or a sheikh, he should
never again have the same power in FIFA's empire.For
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