Transparency. It’s clear to see what an easy word it is to throw around. Get it wrong, fake it, claim it, and people will see through you. But genuinely aspire to deliver it, and do it voluntarily, however tough that path is, can do wonders for reputation. Of an individual or organisation.
The question is, does FIFA realise this?
We are on sadly familiar ground as we return to Zurich for another Executive Committee meeting. As so often before, the agenda doesn’t reflect the big issue. Not so much an ‘elephant in the room’ as the entire Zurich Zoo (located next door) in FIFA HQ.
The World Cup bidding corruption report.
If FIFA wants to somehow, finally, restore its reputation, and shift the spotlight to some of the good work and good people at the organisation THIS is the time to bury ghosts. Not next year or in 2018. Or 2022. Now.
Can the world governing body not really see what the public think of the delivery of this corruption report, and the assertion it will not be made public? The report is like a hot potato being thrown around, and for those seeking the truth, it is like being kept on hold then passed around a call centre
Everyone is playing by the rules. But why are these rules in place?
Michael Garcia’s role was investigator. A thankless task when so many of the corrupt figures from the Executive Committee resigned before properly facing the music. Garcia, to his credit, wants the report made public. But his powers all but ended when he handed the report to the FIFA Ethics Committee, and specifically Judge Eckert.
No-one is questioning his right to take his time poring over thousands of details before coming to his conclusions. But this is where things start to get unsatisfactory for those demanding transparency. A simple question: does Eckert have the power to act against bidding nations? Or more pertinently. Hosting nations. Could he change the outcome?
“That is not our job,” Eckert said when explaining his powers, or supposed lack of, at FIFA HQ. “We will not make any recommendations.”
You don’t need a long memory to recall this same Ethics Committee handing out a succession of lifetime bans, with the notorious 2011 Presidential election at the core of the corruption. But this was about individuals. With individuals the Ethics Committee does have powers. How convenient for FIFA, some might conclude, that its independent Committee can’t tackle bid committees.
And if Eckert cannot act then who can? Well this will end up back at, you’ve guessed it, the FIFA Executive Committee. In Springtime 2015 at the earliest.
Now does FIFA seriously consider this acceptable? Is it acceptable to them even? I’ll be sure to ask this of them in Zurich.
But the question of reputation is a subtle one. They have ‘problem with communications’ that needs addressing urgently. Is this my accusation? Absolutely the contrary. There are smart, clever, likeable, underrated people quietly working wonders in their communications department.
No this is the verdict of FIFA Vice-Presidents Jeffrey Webb and Michel D’Hooghe at the Soccerex event in Manchester in September. Do not misrepresent their Comms people after these comments. This is not about people or a department. This is about transparency of an organisation and confusing messages coming from the top.
No-one can stop Sepp Blatter holding an Ethics Conference at FIFA HQ, which is rather like Manchester United and Van Gaal holding a seminar on defensive excellence in September. And no-one can stop him saying FIFA is transparent.
But Mr Blatter. Please, Please. Humbly. We beg of you. If you are reading this, and hopefully you are. Do not treat the public like idiots. I’ve defended you on air when imperfect English has mangled a message. That is not a crime. But don’t even try the transparency claim. The only thing transparent at FIFA is the glass in the lifts.
If it suits you politically for 2018/2022 controversy rumble on indefinitely, instead consider the reputational damage each passing day.
This, Sir, is your big opportunity. Demand transparency Mr Blatter. Challenge the rules in your own house. Publish the report.
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport