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FIFA and corporate governance

This article was previously published on the Leadership Foundation website.

Corporate governance and FIFA

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is football’s global governing body. An international sporting federation, its President heads the organisation and chairs its Executive Committee. The President is elected very four years by member organisations who vote at FIFA's Congress, the organisation’s supreme body.

First elected in 1998, for the last 17 years FIFA has been headed by Sepp Blatter. During his tenure the global popularity of football has grown and the level of earning generated by successive World Cup tournaments increased.

The growing interest in football and its commercial success has been accompanied by a series of allegations about corruption and cronyism, including the process by which host nations for future World Cup tournaments were chosen.

Earlier this year criminal investigations into a number of offences for personal gain relating to international football, including the use of money laundering and wire fraud, were started by the United States' Department of Justice. 14 individuals, including 9 FIFA officials, were indicted.

A major reason for the FIFA coming under the spotlight is concerns about the weaknesses of the organisation’s corporate governance. Three major reports into FIFA’s governance were produced between 2011 and 2012. Unfortunately, the majority of the recommendations made by these reports were largely ignored by FIFA. These included a failure to adopt time limits to membership of the executive, the introduction of independent (non-executive) members onto the organisation’s Executive Committee, the adoption of best practice conflict of interest guidelines and greater transparency in the organisation’s election processes.

Mr Blatter who earlier this year announced he would step down as President at an extraordinary meeting of FIFA's Congress in February 2016, was this week suspended for 90 days by FIFA’s Ethics Committee. This followed Switzerland’s attorney-general opening a criminal investigation into a payment made by FIFA to Mr Michael Platini, President of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). Both men deny any wrong doing and claim the payment of £1.3m made to Mr Platini was for consultancy work carried out between 1998 and 2002. Payment for the work was made in 2011. These latest events come a week after four of FIFA's largest sponsors - Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Visa - all called upon Mr Blatter to step down immediately as the organisation's President.

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