Zero tolerance? FIFA’s head of Legends programme survives sexual harassment case

January 28 – The sense that FIFA’s senior leadership is running out of control under president Gianni Infantino has been reinforced by news that a key advisor, Miguel Macedo has evaded sanction despite being found to have sexually harassed a member of his staff.

Miguel Macedo, a football agent who worked on Infantino’s election campaign and now martials FIFA’s Legends programme (former footballers who FIFA rolls out at great cost to principally to support the president), remains in post despite having been found by both an internal human resources panel and an outside mediator to have sexually harassed a junior staff member, the New York Times reports.

The 30-year-old female who has been harassed over a long period of time, having been transferred from FIFA’s legal department to Macedo’s team, has now left FIFA but still works in football as part of the Qatar 2022 organising team.

It is yet another example of FIFA manipulating its own disciplinary procedures for the benefit and protection of its senior staff and the president.

FIFA has maintained that it has a policy of “zero tolerance” when it comes to sexual harassment and sexual abuse, but when it comes to senior officials who are important to Infantino’s grip on power, the reality is different and paints the picture of an organisation that is morally bankrupt.

Former CAF president Ahmad – a cornerstone of African support guaranteeing Infantino’s powerbase – had multiple accusations of sexual harassment made against him and even a sworn affidavit from staff members to support those accusations and supplied to FIFA’s Ethics body. It took FIFA more than a year to remove Ahmad but it never addressed the sexual harassment charges which in any other walk of life would have meant immediate suspension.

FIFA has acted on sexual abuse in both Afghanistan and Haiti, but not before women had to go public with the complaints.

The Macedo case is well-known within FIFA’s hierarchy, including having been brought to the attention of Infantino’s right hand man Mattias Grafstrom. Yet the organisation has ostensibly still moved on the harassment findings.

The New York Times reports the complainant first approached the head of women’s soccer at FIFA, Sarai Bareman, after the Women’s World Cup in 2019, asking her to accompany her to a meeting with Kimberly Morris, a Canadian lawyer serving as FIFA’s human resources chief.

Tomaz Vesel, FIFA’s former audit and compliance chief, said he raised the matter with Morris and FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura.

Some time later the woman then met with Nirmala Dias, a mediator FIFA has used to deal with internal conflicts. Dias’ report said there was enough documentary evidence to “sufficiently prove the verbal sexual harassment” and to substantiate that the staffer “was given the prospect of a career in FIFA.”

The report was filed after the complainant had finished her contract with FIFA. Meanwhile Macedo is still there.

FIFA endlessly tells anyone who will listen, including Infantino at the European Commission this week, that it is making football a safe place for everyone, whoever they are, to work and play. Except perhaps at FIFA’s increasingly toxic Zurich headquarters.

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