Before the meeting of the Ethics Committee, FIFA.com spoke with Michael J. Garcia, the chairman of the investigatory chamber of the Ethics Committee about his new role and the challenges ahead.
FIFA.com: Michael, can you explain exactly what your role as chair of the investigatory chamber of the Ethics Committee will involve?
In the first instance, the role is really about looking at issues, complaints, potential violations of the Ethics Code and then determining how to move forward. It’s about determining whether or not there are grounds for a full investigation, and then trying to determine the facts and circumstances of any potential violations and whether there is a reason to continue an investigation. If there is, we’ll go forward and open a full investigation, using all the tools that are available to determine what happened and whether the rules were broken.
And you’ll make recommendations to the new adjudicatory chamber of the Ethics Committee based on your findings?
Exactly. If you look at the Ethics Code, it’s very specific in terms of the respective roles of the investigative and adjudicatory chambers. On the investigative side, we’ll submit a final report to say, 'Here’s what we found, here are the facts, here the violations and here’s our recommendation.' Then it’s up to the adjudicatory chamber to determine what they’re going to do with the specific case.
How would you assess FIFA’s reforms process so far?
I haven’t been involved in any way in what has gone before, in any case or any of the processes for revising the procedures for investigating and determining violations, but from my perspective, I certainly think this is a milestone for the organisation. Two independent chairmen have come in to lead two new, committed chambers with very specifically defined powers and authorities to move cases forward. In my experience as a prosecutor and the lawyer in the private sector, having the authority and the ability to get information and to determine what has happened is critical. So I think that process and the way it has been reformed in the Ethics Code is key to success in this new structure. You’ve got independent leaders of the chamber, which is a major step forward, and you’ve got a very good structure set forth in the revised Code. We’re going to build on that and take it to the next level.
What’s your own personal connection with football? Do you take an interest in the game?
One of the criteria from this job was independence from football, and I certainly meet that criteria! One of the things I’m looking forward to in this new role is getting to know football better, both the game and the processes behind it. My involvement so far has been on a family level. In fact, my daughter was at a soccer camp this week – she’s really the skilled player among us. So while I certainly couldn't say I’ve been intimately involved in the sport, I take an interest in it and I’m familiar with it, and in any case I think that it’s helpful for this role that I bring a fresh approach to the organisation.
What persuaded you to take on this important mission in the world of football?
It’s a time of change here. There have been some issues in the past and a great effort has been made by FIFA and the Independent Governance Committee to examine those and to move forward, so it’s an exciting time to be part of that reform process. FIFA is a worldwide organisation and it plays a very important role. Indeed, if you look at the revised Ethics Code, it states that FIFA bears a special responsibility for protecting the integrity of the game of football worldwide. It’s an honour to be part of that great mission, particularly in this new, challenging role.
You have vast experience in leading investigations into international organisations. Will you be able to draw on this in your new role in a football environment?
You always draw on your experience. Certainly, I have experience in leading investigations into complicated cases as a prosecutor working together with law enforcement and in the private sector, carrying out investigations involving clients or businesses which might have an issue internally and want to determine what happened and who’s involved. However, there are always different circumstances, and different tools available to you, from case to case. If you work for the government, you have a court, the authority to call on witnesses and a grand jury investigation authority, whereas in a commercial enterprise, the company has certain controls over personnel and information that belongs to the company. So part of the process is about establishing what resources are at your disposal, how you obtain information and cooperation and move the investigation forward. The skills are the same in many ways but there’s a very different platform or structure.
What will be the biggest challenges in your new role?
The challenge for any investigative body is all about getting access to information. It’s about your ability to get cooperation, documents and witness interviews. FIFA has a different type of organisational structure from a company or a government, so the challenge will be to work within that structure and use the new rules to get access to information. It’s not an insurmountable challenge by any means but it’s something that will need to be addressed as the cases go forward using the tools in the new Code of Ethics to get the cooperation we need and being prepared to penalise for failure to meet that duty to cooperate. On a macro level, one of the biggest challenges is that the role is new. The Code is very detailed and provides a lot of guidance but with anything new, particularly in the area of ethics, discipline and investigations, we will have to establish a system of processes and procedures. The immediate challenge, bigger than any case, is to create that structure and ensure the organisation, the stakeholders and the public have confidence in it. And that work is starting already.