FIFA in crisis again: Reform message takes a beating

One may never know the true reasons for the resignation of Domenico Scala, FIFA's audit and compliance committee chairman and in-house reform champion, but it had a devastating effect on new FIFA president Gianni Infantino's reform narrative.

Instead of ending its first Congress under Infantino on a positive note, FIFA was forced to scramble and defend a last-minute amendment that was termed a "complete betrayal to all of those who thought they had voted for change, transparency, fair play and reform" by Jordanian Prince Ali, who ran against Infantino during February’s presidential election but helped hand Infantino the second-round victory over Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

So much for Infantino's declaration that the FIFA crisis was over.

By a vote of 186-1, the amendment approved in Mexico City gave the new FIFA Council the right to fire the heads of FIFA's independent bodies -- the audit and compliance committee and two chambers of the ethics committee, but Scala accused Infantino of “smuggling” the measure on to the agenda and took it to mean that they were "factually deprived of their independence and are in danger of becoming auxiliary agents of those whom they should actually supervise." He added that "this undermines a central pillar of the good governance of FIFA and destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms" and as a result was resigning his position.

FIFA moved quickly to say it was all a misunderstanding, and the amendment was simply intended to give the Council the power for one year to weed out bad apples on the various FIFA committees found to have taken part in corruption. Scala had "misinterpreted the purpose of the decision taken," said FIFA in a statement, adding: "Mr. Scala has made unfounded claims which are baseless. FIFA is focused on reform and the path forward as evidenced by the appointment of a new FIFA secretary general," in reference to the hiring of Senegal's Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura, the first woman and first African named to FIFA's CEO position.

Not everyone agreed. Mark Pieth, the Swiss governance expert who worked on reform's FIFA, slammed Infantino for taking dictatorial measures. "For me, it's falling back to the worst times of Blatterism," the Swiss professor told the Telegraph.

Pieth added that Infantino's actions amounted to a personal feud between the new FIFA president and Scala over the refusal of Scala's committee to pay Infantino what he wanted. They were also reported to be at odds over Infantino's unilateral selection of Samoura, who has no background working in soccer or experience in the sort of commercial activities (television and sponsorship) in which FIFA operates.

That lack of experience was downplayed by former IOC CEO Francois Carrard, who headed the FIFA reform committee and said the hiring was "a very important gesture toward gender equity, to recognizing other continents, and apparently she is a formidable personality."

Samoura grew up around soccer, though, and has lots of friends within soccer circles, listing Bayern Munich president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and retired African soccer pioneer Salif Keita, who played in the NASL and attended college in the United States, among her idols.

7 comments about "FIFA in crisis again: Reform message takes a beating".
  1. R2 Dad, May 17, 2016 at 12:04 a.m.

    Time and again we see that organizational bodies are not able to reform themselves--it has to come from outside and it has to be structural change. Nothing about FIFA has changed, just a reorganizing of the deck chairs on the Titanic of corruption. We were lead to believe personnel change would reform FIFA but that's actually not possible. The momentum and the character of the organization will reconstitute all the bad habits. Funny, they might have gotten away with it if they'd reconsidered 2022 but Qatar will be the undoing of FIFA.

  2. rocky rockwell, May 17, 2016 at 5:21 a.m.

    R2 Dad is spot on. Who gives a rat's ass about going back over the German WC when canceling out Qatar was what FIFA needed to do if it was serious about reform. Sadly, it is business as usual and I for one will not be going to Qatar to support this fiasco.

  3. Wooden Ships, May 17, 2016 at 8:03 a.m.

    Haven't seen the minutes from Mexico City (assuming they are still taking minutes). Was Qatar an agenda item? Gender equity with a non soccer background? Bad form Infantino. Julie, Julie, Julie. FIFA needs to marathon it until a consensus is achieved.

  4. ROBERT BOND, May 17, 2016 at 9:49 a.m.

    taking my chances in Paris instead of russia or qatar....

  5. John Mcdermott, May 17, 2016 at 10:35 a.m.

    It's a bit early in the game to assume that Infantino isn't as committed to reform as all were led to believe. But this certainly is not a good signal. Neither is the appointment of a chief administrator with no previous connection to the sport. The new FIFA President is entitled to some sort of honeymoon period, just not a very long one given recent history and how he came to be in his current position. I hope he does well, But starting out angry that your $2 million salary(plus perks) isn't enough when you are charged with cleaning up a corrupt organization does not exactly win you a lot of friends.

  6. Wooden Ships replied, May 17, 2016 at 12:51 p.m.

    Good points John.

  7. Doug Broadie, May 17, 2016 at 12:16 p.m.

    I thought that blowing up "FIFA" as we know it was the right thing to do at Blatter's last election and I still hold to that. We are back to one man holding all the power. NOT GOOD!
    Maybe the League of Nations is the way to go.

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