On Tuesday, the same day FBI director James Comey
was fired, the FIFA Council decided not to renew the terms of FIFA chief ethics investigator Cornel Borbely
and FIFA ethics chief judge
As you can imagine, Borbely and Eckert have been busy the last few years. The federal indictment of dozens of soccer officials and consultants on
corruption-related charges exposed the problems within FIFA, its confederations and at federations around the world.
FIFA ethics investigators lack the subpoena power federal
investigators have, and they have hit many dead ends, notably on investigations into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights. Eckert came under intense criticism for his watered
down version of the report of former investigator Michael J. Garcia
's examination of FIFA corruption that was never made public.
But the FIFA ethics committee effectively brought
down the careers of FIFA president Sepp Blatter
and UEFA president Michel Platini
, his presumptive heir. Blatter's successor and Platini's former No. 2 at UEFA, Gianni Infantino
also was the subject of a FIFA investigation but cleared in 2016.
On its face, there's nothing wrong with the decision to replace Eckert and Borbely. Unlike Comey, who was fired in the
middle of his term, Eckert and Borbely were coming to the end of their terms.
And there is no reason to believe their replacements aren't competent. Colombian Maria Claudia Rojas
will replace Borbely as the new head of the ethics committee's investigatory chamber, and Greek Vassilios Skouris
, a former president of the European Court of Justice, will head the
"These individuals have been chosen because they are recognized, high-profile experts in their respective fields," FIFA said in a statement. "Moreover, they better
reflect the geographic and gender diversity that must be a part of an international organization like FIFA."
Ethic deputies nominated hail from Canada, Rwanda and American Samoa.
(Nominees for new FIFA committees include Obama White House counsel Neil Eggleston
for appeal committee deputy. His son, Nat
, was four-year starter at Duke and played for the U.S.
But both Eckert and Borbely insisted the move was "clearly politically motivated" by Infantino and "will inevitably lead to a renewed loss of trust."
(The Financial Times
that the ethics committee shakeup followed its decision to bar Russian Vitaly Mutko
, chairman of
Russia’s 2018 World Cup organizing committee, from running for the FIFA Council.)
Borbely went so far as to say their ouster will set back the FIFA reform process several years. (As if it is
dependent upon them alone to move forward?) But one more comment from Borbely underscored the enormity of the situation.
"We investigated several hundred cases and several hundred
are still pending and ongoing at the moment," he added to argue their departure will slow down the process of moving these cases forward.
The problem for FIFA isn't a Comey problem --
should Eckert and Borbely have been replaced? -- but a cloud of corruption that hangs over it -- and will remain there until these investigations are completed.
On top of the hundreds
Borbely mentions are the hundreds more that will come in the door as the work of police and investigators concludes in the United States, Switzerland and France.
In the end, it's not the
work of Eckert and Borbely that matters. The action is with those ongoing criminal investigations.