Fifa embraces new ethics drive, but questions remain
Fifa's president Sepp Blatter described it as a historic day. But amid all the talk of progress and reform, this was also a reminder of the dark days Fifa has recently had to endure.
The report by Professor Mark Pieth's Independent Governance Committee will have made some grim reading for Blatter and those executives who have presided over a series of damaging corruption scandals.
"Insufficient", "unconvincing" and "unsatisfactory" was how Prof Pieth's report viewed Fifa's handling of past allegations of misconduct, particularly those involving Blatter's re-election as president and the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
In its 20 page report the IGC sets out how Fifa might start to rebuild trust, starting with a new independent ethics committee with two chambers - one to invstigate claims and another to adjudicate.
Blatter's commitment to change is set to be tested by Pieth's report. Photo: Getty
Crucially this body would have the powers to delve into the past - reopening the prospect of another more thorough examination of claims of wrongdoing during the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.
Blatter was brief and to the point when asked in this afternoon's press conference whether that was now more likely, saying it would be possible to initiate investigations on the basis of credible evidence. The question now is who judges that evidence to be credible. If that person is truly independent then today's report has potentially planted a ticking time bomb under Fifa.
Revisiting the 2018 and 2022 World Cup decisions will create so many problems for Fifa that it remains difficult to see how it will ever happen. But if Fifa is to restore its reputation then it may be the grand gesture it needs to make.
Based on the documents they were shown and their conversations with senior figures on the previous ethics committee, including the chairman Claudio Sulser, Pieth and the IGC felt there was a lack of pro-active follow-up on allegations. Pieth's report adds that part of the problem lies in the requirement for complainants to back up claims with evidence rather than the ethics committee undertaking to evaluate the allegations for themselves.
Having won the support of the executive committee, the recommendations must now be approved by the Fifa congress in Budapest at the end of May.
Today was an important step on Blatter's road map to reform. But the sport's ruling body still has a very long way to travel.