Ethics committee member urges FIFA to fix image

AP, Wednesday 22 Jun 2011

One of the men who decided to suspend leading FIFA executives Jack Warner and Mohamed bin Hammam says while soccer’s world governing body has been tainted, the game will overcome bribery and corruption issues


Veteran Australian soccer broadcaster Les Murray, one of the 13 members of FIFA’s independent Ethics Committee, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that FIFA is still badly in need of reform to rebuild its integrity.

Warner resigned as FIFA vice president, president of CONCACAF and all soccer duties on Monday, maintaining what was described as the “presumption of innocence” by ensuring the sport’s governing body closed its investigation into his part in alleged bribing of Caribbean soccer union leaders in his native Trinidad last month during bin Hammam’s campaign to unseat Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.

Bin Hammam and two Caribbean soccer union employees, meanwhile, remain provisionally barred from all soccer-related duty while facing accusations of paying bribes to up to 25 Caribbean voters during the campaign. All have denied any wrongdoing.

There have since been calls for bin Hammam to follow Warner’s lead and step down for the good of the Asian soccer confederation and FIFA.

Murray said he was unable to comment on bin Hammam or Warner due to his role on the ethics committee.

“We know that Jack Warner has resigned, we know the terms of that resignation and those are the facts, but beyond that I can’t really comment on it,” he said.

“But I’ve said previously that FIFA is badly in need of broad structural and constitutional reform, so that its constitution and structure is such that it’s not so political, and that it is less vulnerable to corruption or suspicion of corruption.”

While the bribery and corruption charges are yet to be proven, Murray said FIFA had already suffered considerable damage through implication.

“We don’t know anything until we have evidence, but the perception is very, very bad,” he said. “When four people from the FIFA executive committee in the last seven months have been either banned or suspended—and one of them has resigned—from all football activities, it’s not a good look.”

Murray said it was obvious FIFA needed to act quickly to reverse that perception.

“There are 24 men on that (executive) committee and four of them have been implicated, plus a lot of people outside the executive committee,” he said. “So it’s not a good look and FIFA has some serious work to do to clean up its image.”

Despite much of the focus now centering on the Asian and CONCACAF confederations, Murray said corruption was not just a regional problem for soccer.

“Corruption can occur anywhere, in sport and in football in particular because it’s such a big game and there’s so much money involved in it,” he said.

But despite the allegations besieging FIFA and the damage done to its image, Murray said soccer is strong enough to survive.

“The game is unbelievably strong and appealing,” he said. “What matters most of all is what happens in the 90 minutes of a football match; and what is on the nose is FIFA, not the game itself.”

Short link: