World Cup bidding must be overhauled, reform chief tells FIFA

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FIFA’s new reform chief has recommended a complete overhaul of World Cup bidding, saying the current process is “a mix of corruption risk and conflict of interest concerns”.

Mark Pieth, the criminology professor at the University of Basle appointed to chair FIFA’s independent governance committee, also recommends time limits for the FIFA president and executive members to serve.

His raft of proposals calls for the organisation to adopt serious anti-corruption measures, to reduce the president’s individual power, and that there should be independent members appointed to the executive committee.

The description of World Cup bidding will resonate particularly in those countries such as England who bid for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

Last December’s votes became mired in controversy, with two FIFA members later being banned for breaching ethics committee rules, and in May, England’s ex-2018 bid chief Lord Triesman made allegations of unethical requests by FIFA members during the campaign.

Pieth’s report states: “Past experience has demonstrated that the risks linked to these highly visible and politically sensitive decisions are actually a mix of corruption risk and conflict of interest concerns.

“Suspicion that individuals either sold their vote or profiteered directly from the choice of venue is combined with allegations of a strategic use of development money in order to influence decision-takers of ExCo.”

Pieth said the bidding process should be revamped to prevent manipulation and the decision for the FIFA Congress to take the final vote on World Cup hosts “is a step in the right direction from a corruption prevention perspective”.

Pieth will not, however, investigate allegations of corruption involving World Cup bids or of wrongdoing by FIFA members but stick to making proposals for future reform – and he admits that some members will not like his plans for change.

He said he would walk away if he feels his reform proposals are not taken seriously.

Pieth told a news conference in Zurich: “We are talking about serious stuff here. Not everyone will like this.

“I’m not too worried about it because to some extent this is a process. We are trying to change something, but of course there’s a bottom line, if we are seriously unhappy I can say ‘this is it, I’ve had it’.”

Pieth, who is being paid by FIFA for his work, said he did not have the capacity both to look into the past and to recommend reforms and he would be “professionally unsound” to do so, so he was focusing on the future.