The credibility of FIFA’s reform work has been shattered by the resignation of Domenico Scala, one of the leading architects of the attempt to drive the world football federation, kicking and screaming, into a brave, cleaner new world.
Scala announced his resignation as chairman of the once-powerful audit and compliance commitee in a statement issued on his return overnight to Switzerland from Mexico City.
The issue which forced his hand was a decision taken by FIFA Congress over an apparently anodyne administrative matter but which had the breathtaking effect of wiping away the crucial guarantees of independence afforded to the bodies charged with policing world football in the wake of the multi-layered corruption scandal.
Scala, in his resignation statement, protested that this move “undermines a central pillar of the good governance of FIFA and destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms.”
His decision may prompt ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert and investigating prosecutor Cornel Borbely to consider their positions now that they lack the protection of the guarantee of independent action.
In addition, his departure and the specific issue may be viewed with concern by the judicial authorities in the United States and Switzerland which are still in full investigation mode over corrupt practices by individuals within world football and remain sceptical about FIFA’s ability to clean up its act.
Scala set out his contained fury in this statement:
“On the occasion of its meeting of yesterday, the FIFA Congress has delegated the election, or the dismissal respectively, of the members of the independent supervisory bodies – such as the Ethics Committee, the Appeal Committee, the Audit and Compliance Committee and the Governance Committee – to the exclusive competence of the FIFA Council.
With this decision, it will henceforth be possible for the Council to impede investigations against single members at any time, by dismissing the responsible Committee members or by keeping them acquiescent through the threat of a dismissal.
“Thereby, those bodies are factually deprived of their independence and are in danger of becoming auxiliary agents of those whom they should actually supervise.
“I am consternated about this decision, because it undermines a central pillar of the good governance of FIFA and it destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms. For this reason, I herewith declare my immediate resignation as President of the Audit and Compliance Committee of FIFA.
“Since the announcement of the resignation of the former President last June, I had pushed on various levels and vigorously for the elaboration and adoption of a comprehensive reform package for FIFA. At the end of February of this year, the Congress finally approved a future-oriented package and thereby paved the way for FIFA to a more credible future.
“This decision still fills me with satisfaction and also a certain pride. Whether the adopted reform points will now really be filled with flesh and blood, remains open for the time being.
“My resignation shall also be a wake-up call and shall give backing to those persons involved, who genuinely advocated for implementing the reforms until today. I would like to prompt all of them: Keep going like this, FIFA needs and deserves your commitment and your consistent action.
The contentious regulation change, which was virtually smuggled through with no explanation and no debate and approved by a sleep-walking 186-1 vote, stated:
“The Council proposes that the Congress authorise the Council to appoint the office holders for the remaining vacant positions within the respective committees of the judicial bodies, the Audit & Compliance Committee and of the Governance Committee until the 67th FIFA Congress and to dismiss any office holder of these committees until the 67th FIFA Congress, which shall come into effect immediately.”
The term ‘judicial bodies’ effectively hid the identities of the ethics committee, appeal committee and disciplinary committee.
Infantino thus gained for himself a power which predecessor Sepp Blatter never had – or it is highly unlikely both the latter and Michel Platini would ever have been held to account for their financial misconduct and might both still be in their former presidential offices at both FIFA and European federation UEFA.