Fifa is hoping that years of corruption scandals and turbulence will finally be brought to an end by the election of a new president. But I’m not the only one of the opinion that Fifa’s problems run deeper than Sepp Blatter - 69% of fans polled in Transparency International’s recent research said they’ve lost all faith in Fifa. This clearly suggests that more severe matters of reforms need to be implemented.
Recently, the focus of media attention has almost exclusively centred around the events unfolding in Zurich. Therefore, Friday’s vote represents a chance for football’s governing body to finally move on from the excess and scandal that defined Blatter’s 17-years reign as Fifa’s main man and create something new and, hopefully, rewarding. It’d be good to see Fifa finally live up to their motto: For the Game. For the World.
But the real question is whether Friday’s vote will actually catalyse true reform? Or should fans and spectators steel themselves to simply meet the new boss, same as the old boss? We probably won’t have any answer for years – but Friday will set the tone.
Fifa requires much more than a change of leader – its governance structure needs to be fundamentally reformed. It’s easy to blame Blatter for all the wrongdoings but it’s the unaccountable framework that Fifa operates in that has enabled him and his allies to thrive.
While companies are accountable to their shareholders, Fifa is accountable only to its member’s associates, whose own governance structures are variable in quality, to put things mildly. As a result, the lack of oversight have created conditions ideal for wrong doings to flourish.
Fifa needs wide-ranging cultural reform – from the inside, out - and hopefully a list of proposed reforms will be fully embraced by Fifa’s member associations. I want to see the camera lenses firmly fixed on the events unfolding on the pitch rather than the events in Zurich boardrooms.
My main concern is that the reform proposed will not do the job. It may be a start but the fact that they are so obviously a package of easy pickings, compromises, concession and missed opportunities is further evidence, as if any more were needed, that Fifa is not capable of reforming itself.
The proposed stakeholder committee, to represent players, leagues and clubs is a good idea in theory. But without any real power, I doubt they will be able to take any action, as and when needed. So basically, we’re back at square one again.
My new company, Axis Stars, aims to promote transparency and democracy within the profession and give professional athletes a protected ecosystem to undertake contracts and provide sound financial advice. I want this pursuit for transparency, driven by the players of the profession, to transcend to those governing it.
Instead, what Fifa needs is an external reform commission led by a wholly independent person. There are so many vested interests within the organisation and the ‘Fifa way’ of doing business has such a broad, deep reach that real reform will only happen if rigorous requirements are developed and universally implemented. That also needs to be accompanied by significant cultural change and education.
To do this, Fifa requires a game-changer in the way it conducts its business. It also requires a game-changer by way of the person who leads Fifa through that change. Cultural change of an organisation is a monumental task, but with a few strong trustworthy figureheads, hopefully this process can get underway.