The FIFA Executive Committee has appointed German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert to chair the adjudicatory chamber of the new Ethics Committee. FIFA.com spoke to Eckert in Zurich about his new responsibility.
FIFA.com: Hans-Joachim, you've been appointed chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of the Ethics Committee. What persuaded you to accept the position?
Hans-Joachim Eckert: I've worked for almost 30 years in the area of white-collar crime, initially as a public prosecutor and then as a judge at various levels, and I regard working in this new area as a challenge, perhaps my last. It's something completely new to me. I've read about the accusations in the media, be it betting scandals or manipulation of matches in the Italian Serie A. It's all in the same field of corruption.
Could you explain your new task to us...
The job of the adjudicatory chamber is to pass verdict on materials prepared by the investigatory chamber. Michael Garcia will conduct the investigations. He'll prepare the case, present it to me and make recommendations. I'll judge whether his investigations are sufficient, in terms of content and evidence, to impose the penalties stipulated in the Code of Ethics.
What will be the biggest challenge in your new role?
The biggest challenge is definitely time management, as I hold a full-time job in Munich, which I'll continue to pursue. But I think I'll find ways of managing the job here in terms of my time, especially as I've already established that the preparatory work done here is excellent. My job as an independent judge is to determine whether the evidence is sufficient, and whether one can also conclusively support certain penalties for the next judicial instance. I'll have to work my way through all previous judgements so I can evaluate similar cases. It's completely new here because FIFA has not had this in its current form up to now. But let's make one thing clear: I won't accept any kind of interference. I have no need of that.
The Ethics Committee has been newly divided into two chambers with you heading up the adjudicatory chamber. Could you tell us a little more about your working procedures?
There are a number of procedures. Either FIFA establishes for itself that something has gone awry, or something will arise from external sources, be it lawsuits or the media. Michael Garcia will examine each case and attempt to verify it with evidence. Should he determine there are no indications, he can decide to drop the investigation, possibly after conferring with me. But should he determine it is serious enough to require action, we'll write to the parties concerned. They have a right to respond, and then we either deal with it or take an immediate decision.
How will this impact positively on transparency in the workings of the Ethics Committee?
It's very important that FIFA has taken this step, because transparency is demanded elsewhere as well, not only at FIFA. I've investigated a number of very substantial financial cases, and nowadays I pass judgement on them. We repeatedly hear complaints that companies lack transparency about money. The situation here is no different. If we can now show we have FIFA’s financial resources under control, and also recognise lapses where they exist, we can also show the general public that we’re doing everything to keep our house in order.
What's the timeframe for this work?
The time I’m permitted to spend on this auxiliary job is strictly laid down by my ministry. It’s also stipulated that I can only earn a specific percentage in total of my annual salary. Even if FIFA wanted to pay me more, I couldn't accept, as I'd make myself liable for prosecution.
What is the timeframe for decisions and judgements?
I can't yet say. A few points in the Code of Ethics still need to be clarified, exactly as we have it in private business or the judicial system, because we also want full transparency in this respect, and don’t want to be accused of fudging the issue. These are formalities which we've already discussed, but it's clear we need a little more time.
Are you a follower of football, or do you perhaps play?
I'm interested, but I'm not a fan. I've never been to the Allianz Arena in Munich, for example, although I did once go to the old Olympic Stadium. I accompanied Italian lawyers who wanted to watch Inter Milan or Juventus. I've observed with interest the way football has transformed itself from a purely sporting event to a commercial operation. Many professional clubs are examples of this. It's interesting to see how turnover is generated, and how it’s then used to promote youth development. It's important for these major clubs to maintain a social network, and that's another reason for my involvement here. FIFA must take on the challenge of transparency. And if I'm able to achieve something based on the experience I've gained over many years, I see no reason not to do it.