By Andrew Warshaw
September 19 – Hans-Joachim Eckert, FIFA’s chief ethics judge whose sanctions have ended the careers of a spate of high-ranking powerbrokers including Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, says he never realised how many cases he would have to handle when he first took on the job.
Eckert, whose adjudicatory chamber has come under intense scrutiny over whether it is acting with consistency and fairness, made a rare public appearance last week on an ethics in sport panel and said he was surprised at the extent of misconduct at the highest level of football administration.
“Four years ago when I got started as chairman of the adjudicatory committee with FIFA, I wasn’t able to imagine what I was going to be in for and that it would affect the top level of management so much,” said Eckert.
Eckert, understandably given confidentiality laws, made no reference to specific cases or the now-infamous ruling taken by FIFA’s membership in May – with the backing of FIFA president Gianni Infantino – that members of independent bodies could be hired and fired by the newly established 36-member Council.
Many observers take the view the ruling changed the landscape of FIFA’s governance overnight and that Eckert and team could no longer act with independence, let alone integrity.
But the German made it clear, ever so subtly, that he was his own man with considerable experience in punishing those guilty of financial misconduct according to the gravity of their offenses
“I have been involved in any number of criminal investigations in Germany, with bosses of big companies involved,” said Eckert. “In sports we have also found that there is such a thing as human greed.”
In order to prevent what he described as “funds being channeled into pockets of people misappropriating them”, Eckert said there was an urgent need for governments to bring prosecutions.
“This is a criminal act. We have to eradicate it with the full force of the law. The ethics committee only has the possibility of getting rid of those people in the world of sport when they can no longer be active.”
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