Keir RadnedgeSix men hold the fate of FIFA’s reform process in their hands.

Not FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Not secretary-general Jerome Valcke. Not governance expert Mark Pieth. Not even Theo Zwanziger, even though he chairs the working group presiding over the final details of the process.

No, the six wise men – well, maybe ‘wise’ is a little premature – are the general secretaries of the world game’s regional confederations. This means UEFA’s Gianni Infantino, CONMEBOL’s Jose Luis Meiszner, CONCACAF’s Enrique Sanz, Africa’s Hicham El Amrani, Asia’s Alex Soosay and Oceania’s Tai Nicholas.

Never heard of most of them yet unclear as to their importance?

The reason is their command of how FIFA, at its Congress in Mauritius next May, will decide on detailed but crucial governance issues which include the composition of the FIFA executive committee, the election of the FIFA president, term and age limits as well as World Cup bidding.

First they are duty bound to consult all the national associations within their region but pragmatism also suggests that the views they take into a new year meeting with Zwanziger and their legal eagles will be dictated significantly by their own presidents.

How this will work is intriguing.

Consider UEFA’s stance. Infantino will have in mind the possibility that Michel Platini may run for FIFA president in 2015 and will not want to be threatened by long-established, immovable power brokers. Hence Infantino (who might just end up as FIFA secretary-general – it must have crossed his mind) might vote to term and age limits.

Conversely Argentinian Meiszner comes from a CONMEBOL where power resides in the over-70s from Argentina and Brazil. Presumably, age and term limits will be anathema to Leoz, Grondona, Marin, Del Nero and the rest. Much the same may go for Africa under Issa Hayatou.

The Asian confederation faces such an uncertain year ahead – no-one knows who will be president by the end of next year – that Soosay might sensibly stick with the status quo.

Fascinating stuff for FIFA watchers.

How did the game get here?

The reform process was set under way at the 2011 Congress by scandal-embattled president Sepp Blatter. Basel governance expert Mark Pieth was commissioned to come up with proposals which generated, so far, ‘only’ a rebuilding of the ethics system and the co-option of a woman on to the exco.

The work of Pieth and his associates ended in September, in effect, when the exco entrusted all the finishing touches to Zwanziger’s working group.

They will thus have no input in the conclusions taken by the working group in February (which must then, in any case, be approved by the exco).

Blatter confirmed, after the exco met last week in Toyko, that a conclusion was in sight.

He said: “FIFA’s reform process is coming to an end, according to the roadmap established after the 2011 congress.

“Congress in 2011 made various decisions concerning the ethics committee, transparency and the revision of statutes which we have realised: the ethics committee is at full speed with the two chambers organised; we have the audit and compliance committee working, they have already had their second meeting.

“Now we are going forward with the consultation of the 209 national associations to be ready with some changes in the statutes if they are necessary by congress in Mauritius.

“Then we will be at the end of this reform process and FIFA – a big organisation of 300m people – will be in good shape and also we hope in a very positive perception.”

That public perception depends significantly on the Magnificent (or not-so-magnificent) Six.

By Keir Radnedge

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