One joins those welcoming the changes at FIFA. A new leader was ushered in on Friday together with raft of new reforms, all meant to rid the organisation of the rot it had gone accustomed to. Swiss Gianni Infantino succeeds Sepp Blatter his countryman who has been pushed out of office and expelled from all matters affecting football. He had presided over a highly corrupt FIFA where votes to determine World Cup hosting countries were allegedly bought and just about anything possible went. Currently different soccer administrators are facing probes by the FBI. The new reforms that are expected to breathe new life into the organisation and help improve ethical behaviour include disclosure of salaries on annual basis of the Fifa president, all Fifa council members, the secretary general and relevant chairpersons of independent standing and judicial committees. Terms of Fifa president, Fifa council members and members of the audit and compliance committee and of the judicial bodies are being limited to three terms of four years. The elected Fifa council will replace the executive committee and be responsible for setting the organisation's overall strategic direction. This will see the council with 36 members compared to the previous 24-member executive committee. The general secretariat will oversee the operational and commercial actions needed to implement the strategy. As a way of promoting women football every confederation will elect a female representative as a council member.
All these are welcome as a mere first step towards restoring the battered image of the world game. The first problem one sees from these is that they came from people who have been associated with FIFA and were adopted by the same people that Blatter toyed around with. There was need for drastic reforms – starting from the very base of the sport. That is at national association level. FIFA should have taken the longer route to call for fresh elections across all its national federations. People that went to the congress to elect a new leadership should have been a fresh class – those that were not connected in any with the Blatter regime. The irony of this all is that 90 percent of people who only a few months back entrusted the federation on Blatter were called on again to determine a new route for the organisation. A number of these were well accustomed to the brown envelope. Blatter served five terms as Fifa president dating back to 1998, constantly winning elections on the back of highly loyal battalion of elected representatives that he religiously maintained and kept close. As far as I am concerned two terms were sufficient, going to the third borders on too long. Having the same faces at the helm for 12 years is way too long and could equally entrench unethical behaviour.
For nations that had hoped that reforms would result with a shift in powers to recognise their value in the game, nothing has been done. Botswana Government, like others, will still have to face possible harsh sanctions were it to be tempted to interfere politically in the sport. Botswana – President Ian Khama in particular – has been very vocal at his disgust at the corruption tendencies of FIFA. At this stage I doubt very much if he is pleased with what FIFA calls ‘reforms’. Nevertheless, words on paper don’t mean a lot; it is the ultimate actions that matter. The new FIFA administration should work extremely hard to win over lost confidence in the game. A no nonsense approach to corruption should be hallmark of Infantino’s crew. The jury is out and very day, every step will be highly scuritinised. World football deserves better. Multitudes of loyal and passionate fans demand that the sanctity of their game be retained at all odds. Infantino must deliver on this.