FIFA's ethics committee says wants power to speak out

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 16, 2015 11:33 AM

ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA's own ethics committee, responsible for investigating allegations of corruption in soccer's scandal-hit governing body, called on Thursday for a change in the rules to let it release more information about ongoing investigations.

Critics have regularly lambasted the in-house watchdog, and questioned its independence from the FIFA leadership, for refusing to give names and other data, even linked to well-known and widely reported cases.

It has not released the names of people caught up in an inquiry into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, names that have already appeared in newspaper and television reports across the world, citing its own privacy rules.

“Transparency should be accorded greater importance in the future when weighing up the protection of privacy against disclosure," Cornel Borbely, who heads ethics investigations, said.

Current rules were "inconsistent with state criminal proceedings in Switzerland and Europe," he added in the committee's five-paragraph statement.

Hans-Joachim Eckert, responsible for deciding on sanctions following investigations, said he wanted to be able to "publicly justify" decisions - something he was currently prevented from doing by FIFA's code of ethics.

“This should be regardless of whether or not the soccer official in question is appealing the decision," he said.

FIFA said it fully supported the proposals and the code of ethics was under review. "We are dedicated to improving FIFA as an organization, and will continue to strengthen its governance and accountability," it added.

Borbely's predecessor Michael Garcia, who led the investigation into the decision to award the hosting of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar, has also complained publicly of his frustration that his report was not published.

The governing body has been plagued by a series of corruption scandals over the years and a number of officials have either been banned by the ethics committee or resigned while under investigation.

It was plunged further into turmoil when 14 sports marketing executives and soccer officials, including several from FIFA, were indicted in the United States in late May on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.

Last week, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who led the teams which inspected bids for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, was banned for seven years but the committee said it could not give any further details about the case.

(Reporting by Katharine Bart; Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Andrew Heavens)