Sepp Blatter’s announced plan to step down as FIFA’s president to allow him the opportunity to remain “in a position to focus on profound reforms” flies in the face of the willful ignorance of the massive fraud and corruption he has exhibited for the last decade and a half. The manner and method of the announcement makes clear that meaningful reform is not the goal. Not a single concrete proposal or guidance followed. Instead, FIFA’s audit and compliance committee chairman, Domenico Scala, glumly mentions, “reforms will include fundamental changes to the way the organization is structured.” This statement is so lacking in substance as to render it meaningless.
FIFA’s corruption percolates down from the top. Mr. Blatter and Mr. Scala have a track record of ensuring that meaningful reform remained elusive. Indeed, the secrecy in which FIFA currently operates is so profound that even the executive compensation paid to Mr. Blatter is kept under wraps. Evidences is unraveling that what the world views as bribes FIFA considers to be part of its executive compensation system. For example, Mr. Blatter’s top lieutenant, secretary general Jerome Valcke, transferred $10 million to an account controlled by former CONCACAF President Jack Warner in conjunction with the bribes paid to secure the location of the 2010 World Cup.
FIFA operates in Switzerland under Swiss law and that choice is not a fluke. Money laundering is legal in Switzerland and its secrecy laws provide the type of environment FIFA executives required to the type of “executive compensation” that can be distributed behind closed doors. It now appears that a thousand or perhaps several thousand third-world laborers will be scarified in the process of constructing the newest FIFA monument in Qatar due to the harsh environmental and slave-like working conditions. Sepp Blatter’s FIFA couldn’t care less. The players and fans of the world’s largest sport deserves better. It is time that FIFA emerge from its Swiss fortress and adopt a corporate rebirth beyond the shadows of Swiss law.
Don’t expect “accountability” to become a FIFA’s talking point any time soon. In the final analysis, the hope of true reform and accountability will be directly tied to the willingness of whistleblowers to come forward as quickly as possible. U.S. law provides a mechanism that allows foreigners to obtain financial rewards and permits whistleblowers to remain completely anonymous. It’s time to pick up the phone.
President, National Whistleblower Center