THE LAWYER tasked with investigating allegations of Fifa corruption has urged football’s world governing body to stop operating under a cloak of secrecy better suited to an intelligence agency.
Michael Garcia used an appearance yesterday in the City of London to call for Fifa to implement greater transparency and a change in tone of leadership – comments perceived as criticism of president Sepp Blatter.
Former New York district attorney Garcia has previously asked Fifa to drop its objections to publishing his investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar.
“The investigation and adjudication process operates in most parts unseen and unheard,” he said in a speech at a lunch organised by the American Bar Association at Fishmonger’s Hall.
“That’s a kind of system which might be appropriate for an intelligence agency but not for an ethics compliance process in an international sports institution that serves the public and is the subject of intense public scrutiny.”
Garcia, who heads the investigative chamber of Fifa’s ethics committee, delivered his 430-page report into the bid process in September. His counterpart in the adjudicatory chamber, German Hans Joachim Eckert, is currently examining it and due to deliver his verdict next month, amid continuing rows over Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup and a possible rescheduling of the tournament from summer to winter.
“An ethics committee – even a serious, independent ethics committee backed by a strong code of ethics – is not a silver bullet,” Garcia added.
“What is required is leadership that sends a message that the rules apply to everyone; that wants to understand and learn from any mistakes or mis-steps the ethics committee may have identified; that makes it clear to everyone.
“True reform doesn’t come from rules or creating new committee structures; it comes from changing the culture of the organisation.”