FIFA ELECTIONS

FIFA approves reforms to try and restore image

FIFA members on Friday adopted major reforms aiming to end corruption scandals ahead of voting in Gianni Infantino as their new president.

FIFA approves reforms to try and restore image
PATRICK B. KRAEMER EFE

FIFA members on Friday approved major reforms aiming to end corruption scandals before then voting into power new president Gianni Infantino, to who the mountainous task of boosting the image of football's governing body now falls

The measures were adopted by 179 members, while 22 voted against and six abstained at a congress seeking to turn the page on Sepp Blatter's tainted rule.

The landmark presidential contest was drawn as an Asia v Europe battle between Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and Gianni Infantino.

Former FIFA vice-president Prince Ali bin al Hussein was aiming to upset the odds but despite receiving heavyweight backing of the United States and Australia he made no impact on the vote.

Football leaders were given an immediate warning at the start of the day that the vote and new reforms must convince the world after several years of mounting scandal with corruption and doubts about World Cup bidding.

"This congress will quite certainly mark a watershed moment in the history of FIFA," acting president Issa Hayatou said in his opening speech.

The reform package is designed to limit the authority of FIFA's top brass in a bid to prevent a repeat of patronage and waste that prevailed during Blatter's 18-year term.

The measures have been developed since June by a committee led by Francois Carrard, a Swiss lawyer tasked with a similar cleanup effort at the International Olympic Committee more than a decade ago.

The president's job has been altered to function like a corporate chairman of the board, providing strategic guidance but with less management authority.

FIFA's executive committee, which had become an epicentre of graft, has been re-branded as a FIFA council. It will operate similar to a corporate board of directions.

FIFA's secretary general, previously number two to the president, will serve as world football's CEO.

Measures to improve financial transparency at the multi-billion dollar organisation were also included.

FIFA's sponsors who are holding out on deals and prosecutors in many countries were waiting on the result for signs of football's commitment to reform.

The scandal that erupted after seven top officials were arrested at a FIFA congress in May "shook the very foundations of our organisation," Hayatou told FIFA delegates.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said football and all sports federations had to improve governance.

"Today you have this great chance to turn the page," he said.

"We need to give new answers to the new questions with regards to credibility and good governance," he said.

Blatter, 79, is the big absentee at the congress. The Swiss sports baron suffered a spectacular fall over the last nine months.

Swiss police, acting under US warrants, arrested seven FIFA officials in Zurich two days before his re-election last May.

Blatter has since been banned from football for six years for ethics breaches and could face criminal charges.

New president Infantino has proposed increasing the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams and to more than double the amount given back to the 209 national associations to more than $1 billion in total every four years.

The football world now awaits to see what he can do to restore FIFA's reputation.