CONCACAF announces reform framework
Long before Loretta Lynch became a household name, fans of the beautiful game had demanded reform in FIFA. People wanted transparency and accountability. They were tired of internal investigations that either concluded someone, who retired years ago, was found guilty, or the findings were just never to be mentioned.
Much as CONCACAF was the first domino to fall in regards to corrupt officials facing a real investigation, they have also become the first confederation to propose the type of reform that has been on the minds of fans for the past two decades.
The move is less a case of remarkable progression, as it is necessity. CONCACAF is headquartered in Miami, all of its transactions take place through American banks, and all of its staff are subject to IRS scrutiny. Since the arrests of CONCACAF president, Jeffery Webb, and Executive Committee member, Eduardo Li, along with the suspension of General Secretary, Enrique Sanz, the remainder of the ExCo had appointed a special committee to oversee the day-to-day operations. The committee consists of the president of the United States Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati, and his counterparts at Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación (Justino Compean), and the Canadian Soccer Association (Victor Montagliani). Together with law firm, Sidley Austin, the special committee recommended a number of reforms, that were agreed to by the ExCo at a meeting in Vancouver on July 4th.
The first point made, was for both an internal and external investigation of all possible instances of fraud. Every contract and commercial deal will be examined following the guilty plea entered by Traffic Sports, in regards to bribing officials to win CONCACAF broadcasting rights.
In terms of corporate governance, the stand out point is the introduction of term limits for all positions, including president. Compensation of all ExCo positions will have to be approved by an independent committee, and the CONCACAF congress. A review will also be held into ‘greater representation’. This is presumably to prevent the kind of hold that Sepp Blatter had with CAF and AFC, and therefore enough votes to secure an election. Training will be given, since the likelihood is for football people rather than businessmen to hold roles, but also with a number of ExCo positions held by individuals without any ties to any member nations. There will also be an annual report made public.
As far as compliance goes, there will be positions created to ensure that CONCACAF is compliant with the law as well as its own code of ethics. Crucially, a whistleblower hotline will be established. As well as the corporate side, this could help prevent another scandal like the one El Salvador suffered, when it transpired that a number of the national team had taken bribes to manipulate results. Contracts with CONCACAF will now have a pre-approval process with background and credit checks, and the bidding process will be reviewed.
To increase on CONCACAF’s current lack of transparency, additional access will be granted to certain information. The confederation’s financial statements will be published on its website annually, including details of budgets. The agenda for all ExCo meetings will be shared with member nations. A huge statement of intentions, if you followed the furore over Sepp Blatter blocking several attempts to reveal his salary, is that all ExCo members and CONCACAF officers will publicly disclose details from their IRS 990. This is the form that will state their earnings related to CONCACAF as a tax-exempt governing body.
While this doesn’t immediately rebuild CONCACAF’s credibility, it is an encouraging sign. We already knew that Prince Ali bin Hussein had proposed more transparency in his manifesto for the FIFA presidency. You would think that all of the moral challengers, that knew they could not beat Blatter’s hold on the developing nations, will come out for the forthcoming election. As candidates withdraw from the race, the remaining manifestos are tweaked to win the endorsement of a fairly well backed challenger who has dropped out. For those less-than-noble CONCACAF executives that manage to avoid the attention of the investigation, there often comes the attitude of ‘If I have to endure this scrutiny, then so should you’. Any attempts to vote down measures that can only be good for the sport, can only raise a red flag to the Swiss and American authorities.
Critics will rightly point out that Gulati had dealt with Traffic Sports for years. They held commercial contracts to events on US soil, have owned two second-tier clubs, and had an executive at the head of the NASL. Also, the peculiar relationship between US Soccer and MLS. If Gulati is keen on transparency then why is a league, that should be under his jurisdiction, the antithesis of transparent. Then you also have the possibility of up to ten American youth clubs, led by Crossfire Premier, presenting a legal challenge to the FIFA ExCo over US Soccer’s refusal to participate in FIFA’s training compensation and solidarity mechanism. This system is where 5% of any transfer is divided between the teams that developed a player up to the age of 23. This would have made Dallas Texans over $750,000 from his transfers to Fulham, Tottenham and Seattle, and relieved the financial burden of future players’ families.
Although trying to change the world is admirable, and this is much-needed reform, sometimes you have to get your own house in order first. Sunil Gulati heads the largest CONCACAF nation, and not being appointed to this special committee would raise a few eyebrows.
There will be comments made about giving Don Garber veto rights, or which FIFA laws will they choose to ignore. Even suggestions that CONCACAF should encourage single-entity leagues, as it has worked so well in giving MLS more power than Gulati, himself, appears to wield.
With that said, how seriously can you view such reforms when they are proposed by someone in such a position?