“Now that the highest person in FIFA has stepped down, we are left wondering how wide and deep the corruption goes and whether there is any hope of recovery for FIFA.
“In his speech before the FIFA Congress last week, held under a dark cloud of bribery and corruption charges against several executive members, Sepp Blatter refused to take full responsibility and defied calls for him to stand down. As head of the organisation, Blatter admitted that ultimate responsibility lay with him, but he was quick to add that there was a need to share the responsibility with executive committee members. In his and the organisation’s defence, Blatter claimed that it was impossible to be responsible for everyone in the organisation, and implored the FIFA “family” to work together to rectify things.
“In his resignation as FIFA boss a few days later, Blatter admitted that the organisation required a profound overhaul and deep-rooted structural change. These changes included a smaller FIFA executive body, democratic and transparent election of FIFA executives, shorter terms of office and integrity checks. Not unsurprisingly, Blatter recommended himself as the person to drive FIFA’s transformation and restore public trust.
“Was Blatter’s desperate clinging to power his choice, or did he or the FIFA power base believe he was truly the person to usher in a new era of organisational integrity and public trust? How the election occurred, and how Blatter and the current executive committee remain in their leadership roles, raises a number of integrity issues in itself. That is, can an ingrained and long-established network of people, with a complex fabric of connections, and relationships with vested interests, be expected and trusted to clean up its own act?
“Structural change alone might only address part of the problem. Just as international regulators may put in rules and sanctions for various forms of cheating among sportsmen and women, it does not mean they will eliminate the problem. Like all institutions that have undergone reputational damage from corruption or other legal transgressions, there are likely to be scapegoats, as well as people with international reach attempting to get around rules or use them to their advantage. Perhaps, like the drug lords, the “real perpetrators of the crime” will be untouchable, having carefully covered their steps.”