Commentary

British parliament hears about FIFA's resistance to independent scrutiny

How has FIFA changed since Sepp Blatter stepped down as president and Gianni Infantino was elected to replace him? The governing body of soccer has been restructured, there's been a huge turnover of elected and staff executives and reforms have been instituted.

But the underlying culture at the heart of so many of the scandals hasn't changed, Miguel Maduro, a former head of FIFA’s independent governance and review committee, told a British parliamentary hearing on Wednesday.

Granted immunity to testify, Maduro told the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that FIFA remained "extremely resistant to accountability, to independent scrutiny, to transparency, to prevention of conflicts of interest."

He was removed from his position in May after he barred the powerful Russian deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko from being re-elected to FIFA's top committee, the new council, on grounds that FIFA rules (previously ignored) barred government officials from serving on FIFA committees as a violation of its principles of separation of government and sports.

Maduro testified that Infantino wanted Mutko cleared because of the political damage it would cause if he was barred.

“I was clearly told that declaring Mr. Mutko ineligible would probably cost the presidency," Maduro said, "because the World Cup would be a disaster and as a consequence the presidency would be put under question."

In response, FIFA issued a statement that it respected the decisions of the governance and review committee and the meeting Maduro had with FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura and Tomaz Vesel, the independent chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, was a normal interaction between one of FIFA's committees and its central administration Samoura now heads.

It isn't clear how Mutko's exclusion alone would damage the organization of the World Cup. The relationship between FIFA and Russian business interests -- television and sponsors -- have not been great though the Russian economy to begin with has not been strong.

Separate from Maduro's testimony, the New York Times reported that Joseph Weiler, a New York University law professor who served on the governance committee but resigned after Maduro's dismissal, has filed an ethics complaint against Infantino and others at FIFA in connection with interference into the committee's work.
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