On Tuesday 26 February, the general secretaries and legal chiefs of FIFA and the six confederations came together at FIFA headquarters for a meeting chaired by Theo Zwanziger. Afterwards, the former head of the German Football Association (DFB) sat down for an interview with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: What was today’s meeting all about?
Theo Zwanziger: We wanted to find out more about the state of affairs at the various confederations, and we discussed a number of key issues with that in mind. There was a very pleasant atmosphere at the meeting. Obviously we all had our different opinions, but overall I was happy because we were able to focus on the issues at hand.
Is there a consensus on statute reform?
We have to respect everyone’s feelings in implementing this reform. The most important thing is to bring about greater transparency and ensure these processes end in agreement. We also need to oversee the sporting, financial and ethical objectives we set in our regulations. We must be in a position where we can punish any breaches in these areas. In this respect, we took a big step forward at the FIFA Congress 2012 by creating an Ethics Committee and an Audit and Compliance Committee. To my mind, that was nothing short of a revolution. What we did was give an independent third party the power to penalise offences committed by executives, in much the same way as the referee does with the players on the pitch.
Is that the most important step forward?
Yes, it’s an essential step and we need to build on it. To do that we need to answer this question: how do you get to become a member of FIFA’s main bodies? It seems logical to me that the Ethics Committee should have the power to take preventive action. In this regard, it is essential that the character of candidates be assessed. Anyone who wants to become FIFA President, sit on the Executive Committee or become a member of one of the major bodies should have a spotless reputation. We must have a guarantee that they will conduct themselves impeccably during their term of office and respect FIFA’s regulations. I am delighted, therefore, that the confederations were unanimously in favour of these checks. We will observe our code of ethics in asking our questions, and we will pay close attention to any potential management issues and corruption scandals and also any possible ethical breaches of a more general nature. There is one thing that needs to be made clear, though: this is not a case of digging around in the private lives of candidates or of punishing the slightest infraction. We need to be detached and yet be practical at the same time. FIFA will establish the boundaries that cannot be crossed. The other key issue is the process for naming the host nation of the FIFA World Cup™. As we said, this decision will be made in the future by the FIFA Congress, who will select the hosts from a list drawn up by FIFA’s Executive Committee. It will be the Executive Committee’s job to assess and designate the candidates. There was a clear consensus on this issue too, which I feel is very important.
Which issues still pose a problem?
There is still some debate about certain administrative issues at FIFA. Some are calling for age limits, while others prefer a restriction on the number of terms of office. We’ve seen two definite positions emerge today. First of all, the age limit is seen as discriminatory, and secondly most people seem to be more in favour of a limit to the number of terms for which the FIFA President can hold office. Nevertheless, we will need to look at these issues in greater depth at future meetings. One thing everyone does seem to be in agreement about is that the President should not be in office for more than 12 years. Several proposals were made as to how these 12 years should be divided, but we will be able to discuss these questions again at the next few meetings.
What do the next steps involve?
At its next meeting, the Legal Affairs Division will officially draw up the points on which we agreed at our meeting in accordance with the statutes. Then we will sit down again with the confederations with a view to clarifying the points that still need to be discussed. FIFA’s Executive Committee will then be able to put forward an excellent statute reform project at the FIFA Congress 2013, after which each member association will have the opportunity to suggest amendments. The whole point of this democratic process is for us to lead FIFA to a brighter future.
Is the reform process progressing as planned?
Yes, absolutely. I was expecting the negotiations to be a lot more difficult. In sport, unlike politics, there’s no ongoing dialogue between the majority group and the opposition. FIFA comprises people of many different cultures and backgrounds, and yet despite our differences we have been able to understand each other and come together in finding solutions to these major issues.
There are some sections of society, however, who are sceptical about the process...
We’re not making announcements at every turn. We’re working towards a goal and once we’ve brought this procedure to an end, everyone will be able to make their minds up.