By Andrew Warshaw
May 18 – Two more highly respected members of FIFA’s governance committee have resigned in protest at the removal the body’s chairman, Miguel Maduro, axed in last week’s purge of senior ethics watchdogs.
Navi Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and corporate human rights expert Ron Popper, have both stepped down in the latest blow to Gianni Infantino’s reform claims.
The decision to get rid of Maduro, a Portuguese lawyer and former government minister part of whose job was to vet candidates for senior FIFA positions, after less than a year in the role stunned governance and human rights experts.
“The world of football still hasn’t realised what is required if they really want to act under the rule of law and in a manner that is subject to effective, independent scrutiny,” Maduro, a former advocate general of the European Court of Justice, told The Associated Press.
Maduro was one of several leading independent experts replaced by FIFA’s Council in a major clearout that also saw FIFA head ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert and lead prosecutor Cornel Borbely, whose joint work has brought down a raft of corrupt officials, removed.
Maduro told The AP it was a “dramatic and drastic decision” to push through such changes without “strong justification.”
Pillay, a South African judge, was only appointed in January to help the fight against corruption. She and Popper, a British former international journalist who has more than a decade of hands-on human rights experience at corporate level and was also appointed to the governance committee in January, have now joined panel colleague, New York University law professor Joseph Weiler, in resigning as independent FIFA overseers.
Several of Maduro’s recent decisions were too close for comfort for Infantino and the FIFA hierarchy, not least blocking Russia’s deputy prime minister and 2018 World Cup chief Vitaly Mutko from retaining his seat on the ruling Council due to a conflict of interest.
Between the ethics committee and the governance committee, six officials have now either been removed or have quit in protest in the last week since that night of the long knives at the FIFA Congress in Bahrain.
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