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Keir RadnedgeSwiss law catches up with FIFA this week – or, perhaps, it’s a case of FIFA catching up with Swiss law.

One of the events wrapped up in the razzmatazz of events surrounding the finals draw for the World Cup in Brazil next year is a meeting tomorrow and Thursday of the world football federation’s executive committee.

High-profile issues up for consideration include the blighted state of preparations for the finals in 2014 (delays, corner-cutting, construction deaths) and 2022 (workers’ rights in Qatar or the lack of them) plus the diplomatic wrangles over Israel-Palestine (freedom of movement for athletes, officials and equipment) and Serbia-Kosovo (statehood recognition).

But passing beneath the radar, listed as item 13.5 on the agenda, is the apparently opaque proposal (expected to go through without discussion) that members of the FIFA exco should be registered formally with the Commercial Register of Zurich.

The significance of this step relates back to the exco scandals in 2010 and 2011 over the votes-for-cash storms swamping both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup award process and then the FIFA presidential election.

Subsequent disciplinary action led to the departure from the exco, for one reason or another, of eight of its members.

The negative publicity prompted not only the FIFA reform process but jogged local politicians into a realisation that they could no longer turn a blind eye to the cowboy behaviour of too many directors of sports federations flying under the tax-friendly Swiss flag.

Departing FIFA reform steward Mark Pieth believes Switzerland needs to draw the laws far tighter but at least the legal authorities in Zurich have woken up to the need for action: hence its insistence that members of the executive bodies of legal entities should be formally entered in the local commercial register to comply with Swiss law.

This would place FIFA exco members under legal status which, in theory, could make them personally liable for malfeasance in office.

As a FIFA spokesperson explained it: “FIFA vice-presidents and executive committees must now complete the process of declaring that they accept their appointment to serve on the relevant executive body, in order to be registered and in compliance with Swiss law.”

Hence, the significance of item 13.5 is far greater than the few headlines – such as the one at the head of this article – it will gather amid all the fun of the fair in Costa da Sauipe this week.

** A Sao Paulo prosecutor has opened an investigation into possible racism by the organisers of the World Cup Finals Draw over the decision to choose light-skinned husband-and-wife team Rodrigo Hilbert and Fernanda Lima to present the televised show instead of two Afro-Brazilians.

By Keir Radnedge

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