FIFA Congress to tackle first reforms
© Foto-net

The upcoming FIFA Congress in Budapest is set to be a particularly significant one, as member associations gather to vote on the first set of proposals put forward as part of FIFA’s ongoing reform process.

The 'Pearl of the Danube', as Budapest is romantically known, is set to provide the picturesque setting for a milestone FIFA Congress on 24 and 25 May, as FIFA’s 208 member associations meet to discuss a series of far-reaching changes in the areas of corporate governance, compliance and ethics.

While the reform 'road map' set out by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in October 2011 envisages the completion of the reform process at the 2013 FIFA Congress in Mauritius, a successful meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee at the end of March has helped to ensure that several concrete proposals can already be voted on in Budapest.

Taken from recommendations made by the three FIFA Task Forces set up following last year’s FIFA Congress as well as by the Independent Governance Committee (IGC) chaired by renowned governance expert Professor Mark Pieth, the proposals going before the Budapest Congress include the strengthening of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, the establishment of an Audit and Compliance Committee with increased scope and the creation of a new seat for a female member on the FIFA Executive Committee.

Although the Congress will now have the final say on their adoption, the March Executive Committee meeting provided an important first test, with all the proposals being unanimously approved.

“This has been a historic day for FIFA’s reform process,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter following the Executive Committee meeting. “We always said that we would complete these reforms in June 2013, but now we have the possibility to already go to the Congress in May with some important items.”

President Blatter said he was particularly pleased with the Executive Committee’s support for the new Ethics Committee structure, first proposed by the President himself at the close of the 2011 FIFA Congress in Zurich. Subject to approval in Budapest, the Ethics Committee will be divided into two distinct chambers, one of which will be investigatory and the other adjudicatory.

“I am very pleased that one of the main points I mentioned nearly a year ago – the need for a two-chamber Ethics Committee – is now the crucial point in the recommendations made by the IGC,” Blatter said.

Checking integrity
Another key task to be handed to the Ethics Committee under the new proposals would be the carrying out of integrity checks on candidates for specific positions, including all members of the new Audit and Compliance Committee as well as the members of FIFA’s judicial bodies. In order to avoid a situation where the “police” police themselves, integrity checks would also be carried out on the Ethics Committee members by the Audit and Compliance Committee.

Replacing the former Audit Committee, this newly expanded body is also part of the proposals going before the Budapest Congress. While the former committee’s previous focus was primarily on the auditing of FIFA’s finances, the new committee will be given additional scope to monitor issues relating to compliance.

Underlining the need for clear impartiality in both these key committees, the Budapest Congress proposals also include a new section in the Standing Orders of the Congress setting out strict “independence criteria” that must be met by the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the Audit and Compliance Committee and both chambers of the Ethics Committee – stating for example that neither they nor any of their family members can have held any paid position or material contract with FIFA or any member, confederation, league or club in the four years preceding their appointment.

Another notable proposal being put before the Budapest Congress is the planned addition of a female member to the FIFA Executive Committee. Subject to the Congress approving the relevant amendment to the FIFA Statutes, this “Representative of Women’s Football” will already take her place on the executive in 2012, initially as an appointment made by the Executive Committee members. The 2013 Congress would then see an election take place for the first four-year term, with candidates put forward by the confederations on the basis of proposals made by their member associations.

“I am particularly happy that the Executive Committee backed my proposal to have a female member,” said Blatter. “Football is a game for men and women, so it is vital to have a female voice on the committee.”

Halfway stage
Speaking to reporters after the March Executive Committee meeting, the FIFA President stressed that the measures being put to the vote in Budapest will mark only the halfway point in the reforms road map.

Although not yet ready to be voted upon, other recommendations put forward by the Task Forces and IGC have been distributed to the member associations (see documents on the right hand side) and these will also be presented and discussed in Budapest.

“The composition of the Executive Committee, the number of Vice-Presidents … how the President is elected in future, whether we should have age limits or limits on the number of terms of office and all the other proposed changes to the Statutes – we will go forward with these discussions, together with the IGC, and according to the road map,” Blatter concluded.

The main documents relating to the 2012 FIFA Congress, including the Congress agenda, the draft FIFA Statutes and the further proposals made by the Task Forces and Independent Governance Committee have been published on FIFA.com and can be found by clicking the links on the right hand side.