Heading for clear waters

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius will provide the setting for the 63rd FIFA Congress at the end of May, as football’s world parliament gathers to vote on the final set of proposals in FIFA’s two-year governance reform process.

The beautiful island location could hardly be more apt, as the representatives of FIFA’s 209 member associations meet to discuss the last set of proposals put forward as a result of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter’s 2011 Congress pledge to steer “the FIFA boat … back into clear, transparent waters”. The delegates will have little time to savour the scenery beyond the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre, however, with a busy 19-point agenda awaiting them at the two-day gathering.

The most important piece of business will clearly be the proposed amendments to the FIFA Statutes relating to the last remaining decisions in the two-year governance process.

Following on from the major steps already approved at last year’s FIFA Congress in Budapest (see reform process timeline on page 15), the member associations will vote on a final series of amendments, comprising ten main points aimed at further strengthening FIFA’s governance structures, as well as increasing the integrity, transparency and representative nature of world football’s governing body.

Integrity checks for any candidates elected by the Congress (including candidates for the FIFA presidency) were already put in place following the 2012 Congress, with the Mauritius proposals calling for these checks to be extended to other key position-holders, including all members of the FIFA Executive Committee. In relation to candidatures for the presidency, it is also proposed that these must be supported by at least five member associations, and that candidates must have played an active role in an association for at least two of the preceding five years.

The reform package also recommends that all FIFA members increase the involvement of all relevant parties in their own structures, in order to ensure a stronger representation of the game’s key stakeholders. Furthermore, the Congress will be updated on the voluntary re-structuring of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) – the body which oversees any changes to the Laws of the Game.

Announced at the IFAB’s last meeting on 2 March, this restructuring will involve, in particular, the creation of two new advisory panels – one comprising refereeing experts and the other former players and coaches, current coaches, and technical directors – with the aim of further improving consultation within the game and increasing the transparency of the IFAB’s decision-making process.

FIFA World Cup bidding
Concerning the bidding process for the hosting of FIFA World Cups, the proposals call for final decisions to be taken, in future, by the Congress. Already approved in principle at the 2011 Congress, this will involve the FIFA Congress voting on the location of future final competitions, following the drawing up by the FIFA Executive Committee of a shortlist of up to three bids. Supported by a detailed set of bidding and hosting regulations to be established by FIFA, the Congress will not be able to award the hosting rights to more than one FIFA World Cup at the same meeting, and it will also not be possible for one confederation to host two consecutive editions of the tournament.

Among the other proposed amendments to the FIFA Statutes included in the package are a series of clarifications and specifications, including in particular a re-drafting of articles 2 and 3 to incorporate stronger and more detailed wording on the promotion of ethics and the fight against discrimination respectively.

Following the vote on these multiple amendments, the Congress will then turn its attention to two further items put forward: the introduction of age limits and that of limited terms of office for key office-holders.

“We were already able to pass a number of landmark decisions at the 2012 Congress in Budapest, and I am now looking forward to the completion of this important process in Mauritius,” FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter told FIFA World following the latest FIFA Executive Committee meeting in March. “Considering the unity that the Executive Committee has shown in its support for these remaining proposals, I believe that the reform process is on a good track, but it is now up to the Congress to give the final approval.”

Beyond the reforms
While the final steps in the governance reform process are likely to dominate media coverage of the event, a number of other important matters will also be raised at the Congress.

As usual, the Congress will be asked to approve FIFA’s consolidated financial statements for 2012 – which include a positive annual result of USD 89 million – as well as the detailed budget for 2014.

A series of updates will then be provided on a number of strategic and sports-political matters, including reports on FIFA’s ongoing efforts to tackle match-fixing as well as discrimination and racism in football. In relation to the latter topic, the Congress will also be presented with the full line-up of members of FIFA’s new Anti-Discrimination Task Force, which was created in March under the leadership of FIFA Vice-President and CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb.

As a follow-on to the reform process items already approved by the Congress in 2012, the member associations will then be asked to elect the chairmen, deputy chairmen and members of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee and of the judicial bodies – comprising the two chambers of the Ethics Committee, the Disciplinary Committee, and the Appeal Committee.

Female elections
The first-ever formal election of a female member of the FIFA Executive Committee is also set to take place, following on from last year’s milestone appointment of Burundi’s Lydia Nsekera on a one-year co-opted basis. In addition, the Executive Committee has asked the Congress to approve the additional co-opting of two further female members, to bring the total number of women on the FIFA executive to three. Four women have been proposed by their respective confederations for the three posts, with Nsekera standing against Australia’s Moya Dodd, New Zealander Paula Kearns and Sonia Bien-Aime of the Turks & Caicos Islands.

In other business, the Congress will also vote on a proposal to remove the match levies that member associations currently pay to FIFA every time an international match is played, while maintaining the ability of the confederations and associations to demand such levies if they wish.

There will also be a vote on a proposal by the Football Federation Australia (FFA) to amend an article of the Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes relating to players who have acquired a new nationality.