The supreme Federal Council has told the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport to produce proposals for a tightening up of the laws governing sports authorities operating out of Switzerland with particular attention to turning corruption – on and off the pitch – into a criminal offence.
It found that “the actions taken by the (international) sports federations are not sufficient or effective enough to prevent corruption.”
This is a remarkable state of enlightenment after decades of virtually non-existent regulation suggested that Switzerland acquiesced in a sports authority culture which believed in an encouragement of interests (personal, financial) rather than guarding against a conflict of interests.
This was not the initial attraction of Switzerland when the IOC set up shop in Lausanne (rather than Paris) in 1915 and FIFA also arrived from the French capital in 1932 (Cycling’s UCI also started in Paris then moved to Aigle in Switzerland from the safety of which it fired legal salvoes at journalists who questioned its credibility and veracity over doping).
In a turbulent Europe of a century or so ago Switzerland was securely, safely, solidly neutral. Swizerland also became, after all, the chosen home of the League of Nations.
But just as the League of Nations was doomed so was the credibility of those sports bodies who relished the tax-lite existence offered by uninquisitive Swiss law.
That context provided a perfectly-formed safe haven for those individuals who discovered in the 1980s and 1990s that the sports/TV/sponsorship explosion had handed them the keys to a sporting Fort Knox.
No wonder visiting sports directors sold their votes to the highest bidders; they could . . . and Swiss law could not touch them. Indeed, it might be argued that the behaviour of a corrupt few among the political elite encouraged a participatory culture which turned – if not a blind eye then a glazed eye – to doping and matchfixing.
Swiss law had nothing to say about the corruption of the Salt Lake Olympic bid process; Swiss law allowed FIFA, Joao Havelange and Ricardo Teixeira (and who knows who else?) to buy off the risk of criminal charges over the ISL scandal.
Only when FIFA’s ethical incoherence was exposed to world view in the run-up to the 2018/2022 World Cup votes in late 2010 did Swiss politicians finally awake from their derided slumber and concede their own indirect complicity.
Suddenly hosting the likes of FIFA, the IOC and the UCI was no longer a national status symbol, more of a headache.
Some sports have been more reluctant to embrace reform than others.
The IOC was kicked into action first by the Salt Lake scandal because of the exigencies of the long arm of United States law; FIFA was still in resentful, resistant mode in the spring of 2011 even after the World Cup and presidential vote scandals.
At the opening of FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 31, Micheline Calmy-Rey, President of the Swiss Confederation told delegates: “Take seriously the many criticisms voiced about corruption and a lack of transparency. It is important you examine them swiftly and take the necessary measures to reform your governance.
“It is of the utmost importance because your organisation should be an example not only to young people but to the world at large.
“What is important is to restore full confidence in the organisation; let not money spoil your ideals. This is not the time for a catenaccio defence but time for a courageous offensive on the pitch of transparency to reclaim integrity, respect, tolerance and team spirit. FIFA is important to Switzerland so I wish you the energy necessary to overcome the many challenges which face you.”
How a largely chauvinistically male audience hated that: not only being scolded in public by someone from outside their brotherhood but by a woman (!) at that.
Calmy-Rey achieved a result, though: Blatter launched a reform process which, for all the doubts about the detail and the pace, continues to grind along.
Now Swiss parliamentarians have come on board.
Very, very late in the day. But welcome, for all that.