March 21, 2019

FIFA reformer Scala quits over loss of independence

Domenico Scala, Chairman of the FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee, speaks during the 66th FIFA Congress in Mexico City

Domenico Scala, a Swiss businessman who led reforms to clean up scandal-plagued FIFA, quit his post at the global football body on Saturday, saying its independent watchdog committees had lost their independence.

Scala, head of the audit and compliance committee, said the reform of FIFA, which is attempting to recover from the worst graft scandal in its history, had been undermined following a resolution by the FIFA Congress on Friday.

The resolution, passed by 186 votes to one, gave the FIFA Council power to appoint or “dismiss any office holders” of its independent bodies such as the ethics committee and the audit and compliance committee.

This effectively gives the Council, which has replaced the former executive committee and is headed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the right to fire ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, ethics investigator Cornel Borbely and Scala himself.

The ethics committee, which was reformed in 2012, has investigated and banned more than a dozen top officials for ethics violations.

These have included former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and ex-secretary general Jerome Valcke as well as former executive committee members.

Scala said the new rule “undermines a central pillar of the good governance of FIFA and it destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms”.

“It will henceforth be possible for the Council to impede investigations against single members at any time, by dismissing the responsible Committee members or by keeping them acquiescent through the threat of a dismissal,” added Scala.

“The bodies are factually deprived of their independence and are in danger of becoming auxiliary agents of those whom they should actually supervise.”

Eckert and Borbely could not immediately be reached for comment.

Previously, committee members could only be sacked by the Congress, which is held annually and where each of FIFA’s 211 member associations hold one vote. FIFA Council meetings can be called at short notice.

During a speech to the Congress earlier on Friday, Scala admitted that he had “made enemies”.

The vote, on an apparently simple administrative issue, was taken late in Friday’s meeting, the first since Gianni Infantino was elected as president in February.

FIFA passed a raft of reforms aimed at avoiding a repeat of the corruption scandal that has seen 42 football officials and entities indicted in the United States.

“We are following a democratic process,” Infantino told reporters after the vote on Friday.

“If we don’t act we are criticised and if we do act we are criticised, but we should also be criticised if we act in the wrong way. Do we wait one year for Congress to dismiss committee members who should be changed?

“We need to be flexible to accomplish all the changes.”

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