By Andrew Warshaw
September 23 – Doubts have been raised over whether FIFA’s new audit and compliance chief Tomaz Vesel is eligible for the job and whether FIFA president Gianni Infantino may have worked behind the scenes to manoeuvre the Slovenian into the role vacated in May by Domenico Scala.
Scala resigned in protest when the FIFA congress passed a motion, orchestrated by Infantino’s office, that allowed for members of independent governance bodies to be hired and fired until next year’s congress, in effect putting their independence on hold for a year even though most delegates had no idea what they were really voting for.
Infantino has dismissed accusations that he engineered Vesel’s appointment in order to get rid of Scala after the pair spectacularly fell out. But the Norwegian investigative website Josimar now says it is in possession of documents that prove Vesel’s appointment broke FIFA’s own statutes.
Quoting the FIFA governance regulation that any “chairman or deputy chairman of its independent committees cannot have held any official function at a national or confederation level, including the four years previous to initial term”, Josimar claims Vesel is in breach of that rule.
The publication says it checked with FIFA’s legal division and was told there were no exceptions. And yet, it reveals, despite passing an eligibility test, Vesel held an official role at the Slovenian FA. From 2011 until 2014 he was a member of the Youth Committee, and in 2014 became deputy chairman of the same committee, holding on to that function until joining FIFA.
If Josimar’s revelations are correct, serious questions will once again be raised about FIFA’s credibility under Infantino and the damage to his reputation even though he was recently cleared of any wrongdoing by FIFA’s ethics committee to end months of speculation about alleged misconduct since he took over from Sepp Blatter.
When he was appointed, Vesel promised to operate “in accordance to international standards, and continue down the path to good governance as it is stipulated in the reforms.”
Shortly afterwards, FIFA announced that Infantino had accepted an annual salary of CHF1.5 million, with no bonuses this time but eligible for an unspecified bonus in 2017, something of a can of worms given the sensitive nature of FIFA’s much-scrutinised financial state, the ongoing corruption scandal and the belt-tightening reform process Infantino has been so keen to implement.
The package had been set by FIFA’s Compensation Sub-Committee whose chairman also happens to be Vesel.
Reacting to Josimar’s report, a FIFA spokesperson said that under the statutes, Vesel “successfully passed the eligibility check conducted by the independent Review Committee which consists of the former Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, Miguel Poiares Maduro, the former Indian High Court judge Mukul Mudgal, and the former chairman of Peruvian football club Sporting Cristal, Felipe Cantuarias Salaverry.”
“The review committee is not in a position to comment on individual cases but one of the issues that the review committee had to decide, in more than one case, was the interpretation of the independence criteria; in particular to decide which positions in FIFA and the confederations and member associations are official positions (since the regulations excluded only those holding such official positions). In interpreting that notion, the Review Committee took into account the different legislative drafts and previous versions of that provision, the purpose of the provision, and the character of the position held by the candidates involved, in particular if the positions they held were purely advisory and did not involve any remuneration (taking into account, in particular, the notion of “material relationship”, established in the independence rules).”
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