FIFA fights on - World body aims to boot out racism, doping, match-fixing

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS Assistant sport editor

Friday, April 26, 2013

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In the face of one corruption-related probe after another within its football governance structure, FIFA appears determined to frontally combat the ugliness that has given the world's most popular sport a bad rap in recent times.

It's president Joseph 'Sepp' Blatter said the challenge is not only with weeding out corruption by pursuing a path of transparency and ethical governance, but exorcising the demons of racism, doping and violence.

"We have put aside (dealing with) corruption and transparency, now we have in our sport, violence, doping and racism... racism is not only something that we will have on our agenda, we have to make sure we eradicate racism from our game," said Blatter in his address to the 38th CONCACAF Ordinary Congress in Panama City last Friday.

He says education is a path to pursue in dealing with racism in particular, but conceded that it won't be easy as there are enduring human factors that will make it difficult to score in uprooting the scourge that has cast a dark shadow on the beautiful game since it was first organised.

"Education is a one way to go, but easy to say, but hard to do. And punishment for racism must not only have fines... as clubs must take responsibility for the action of their fans," said Blatter, a Swiss, who has led world football since 1998.

"Football is my life and yours, football can do good but we need solidarity as a family, and if we have solidarity we wouldn't have racism, but we are humans," said Blatter, who has led FIFA through it greatest period of growth, and also through perhaps its most turbulent times.

CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb heads the FIFA Anti-Racism committee and Blatter expressed confidence that the Caymanian will do "a good job" in tackling the problem.

"We wish him well and he will do the job and that personality is your own president, Mr Jeffrey Webb," said Blatter to the congress membership.

Webb, who has spearheaded a broad-based and aggressive programme to restore the image of CONCACAF in the wake of the cash-for-vote scandal, said the fight of ridding the sport of its many ills will be uncompromising on all fronts.

"We have global challenges with regards to match-fixing, racism and discrimination, but we have collaborated with INTERPOL (in helping us). Racism and discrimination unfortunately still exist in our sport and the world... we can try and use the sport to combat and eradicate injustices from our society," said Webb, a banker by trade.

The 77-year-old Blatter also spoke passionately about his desire to eliminate crime and violence from the sport, and underlined the aspect of match-fixing as an area of grave concern.

"We have match-fixing, which is another (sore) point, where people manipulate results of games... we mustn't allow this to continue," he noted

Blatter said all committees with special responsibilities in dealing with judicial matters, oversight and accountability and transparency will be elected, moving away from the old practice of a system of appointment.

"From this congress (onward) we will vote for members of the Appeals, Disciplinary, Ethics, Audit and Compliance committees, and that's democracy and nobody can say that FIFA is not transparent," the football top man said to rapturous applause to a congress grappling with its own corruption turmoil.

Blatter also called on the international media to play its role in helping the embattled sport to become better.

"The media, you must help us to go forward with the goals we have to make the sport better," urged Blatter, as he turned his gaze on media representatives covering the congress, which is said to be a first in CONCACAF.

Meanwhile, the congress heard a report of a CONCACAF-commissioned Integrity Committee investigation into suspected irregularities involving former long-serving president Austin 'Jack' Warner and general secretary Chuck Blazer.

A day after the damning report that cited alleged impropriety and what was deemed "unauthorised spending" of CONCACAF finances, an embattled Warner resigned from his positions within government of his native Trinidad and Tobago.

Warner had resigned from all posts he held in football to avoid answering allegations against him in his supposed role in the vote-buying scandal that rocked the firmament of not only football in CONCACAF, but the global game.

Blazer, later on, resigned as general secretary of CONCACAF, but still maintains his seat on FIFA's Executive Committee until its congress in Mauritius next month.

On Monday, a leading FIFA anti-corruption adviser Alexandra Wrage resigned from the post claiming football's governing body failed to change its culture after bribery and vote-buying scandals.

A long-serving member of FIFA's Executive Committee, Paraguayan Nicolas Leoz, has quit the post on "health and personal" grounds.

Leoz was accused in November 2010 of taking bribes in the 1990s from the now defunct sports rights agency ISL, but the 84-year-old has denied the claims.

His resignation comes in the week that a 4,000-page report by FIFA's ethics investigator is set to be made public.




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