FIFA ousts ethics chiefs: is the reform process over?

By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London, United Kingdom

FIFA’s Council, its supreme body, has decided not to nominate for re-election Cornel Borbely and Hans-Joachim Eckert as, respectively, heads of the investigatory chamber and adjudicatory chamber. Borbely and Eckert were not given any notice that they were to be replaced.

The announcement came prior to FIFA’s annual congress on 11 may 2017 in Bahrain. FIFA’s Council has nominated Maria Claudia Rojas and Vassilios Skouris to replace them.

Following their ousting, it has been reported that Borbely and Eckert were investigating “several hundred” cases of wrongdoing.

In a strongly-worded joint media release Borbely and Eckert stated as follows:

The successors of both chairmen will have to familiarize themselves with the dossiers and the processes. The non-election will lead to long delays in current investigations and proceedings, and complicate the prosecution of violations of the code of ethics. It appears that the heads of FIFA have attached greater weight to their own and political interests, than to the long-term interests of FIFA. They have accepted jeopardising FIFA’s integrity, and, hence, the future of the game”.

In addition to Borbely and Eckert leaving their positions, only two members out of the six other members of the investigatory chamber and seven other members of the adjudicatory chamber have been nominated for re-election.

This development must be seen as a huge setback for the FIFA reform process, having previously talked about root and branch reform following the corruption scandals of 2015. Furthermore, a number of people that were named in the 2015 corruption scandals were FIFA Council members and perhaps the cases that Borbely and Eckert were investigating concern some of the current members.

In order to truly reform itself, FIFA needs to annul the power of the FIFA Council to remove its ethics chiefs.

This is not the first time that FIFA has received publicity for obstructing investigations or publications. Rather, by coincidence, it was Eckert that, in 2014, blocked the publication of New York Attorney Michael Garcia’s 350-page report into allegations of corruption in football. Instead, Eckert, released a 42-page summary of Garcia’s report, which cleared Russia and Qatar from any wrongdoing during the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively, prompting Garcia to resign as FIFA ethics investigator.

This latest development shows that FIFA still has a long way to go before it can be truly shown to have reformed itself. No doubt the general public, as well as the world-wide football family, will want to know what exactly the “several hundred” corruption cases being looked into by Corbely and Eckert are all about!

 

Jonathan Copping can be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@boltburdon.co.uk’