Sepp Blatter thinks FIFA can reform itself. Anti-corruption experts say an institution in that much trouble won’t be able to clean itself up without an outsider.
The arrest of seven top soccer officials in Zurich and Blatter’s resignation provide an opening for transforming what Transparency International’s managing director Cobus de Swardt termed FIFA’s “sordid empire of corruption.”
But any change clashes with the reality of politics at FIFA: Its 209 members from Vanuatu to Venezuela, and the powerful executive committee are unlikely to act against their own entrenched power and privileges.
Mark Pieth is a Swiss law professor and FIFA’s former top anti-corruption adviser. His work for FIFA ended last year with all of his key reform proposals being rejected.
Pieth wants Blatter to go now — not in seven to 10 months after a new president is elected. He is calling for an interim caretaker from outside to stabilize FIFA and restore its credibility. Only then should there be an election, which may not happen for up to two years.
“Blatter cannot cling to his job now for months as a lame duck,” Pieth told The Associated Press. “There is no use in wasting time and getting into political games. You don’t step down in bits and pieces.”
Pieth suggested “someone on the outside, but someone who knows the inside” as the caretaker. He mentioned former German football association president Theo Zwanziger or Sunil Gulati, the head of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
He also said Gulati might be a strong candidate for the long-term presidency.
“It has to be somebody out of the midst football, but someone who is not tainted by the former system,” Pieth said. “It shouldn’t be one of these old hands because they will be immediately in great trouble again and find themselves discredited.”
This won’t please the presumed frontrunners — Michel Platini, head of the European federation UEFA, or Issa Hayatou, president of the African federation.