By Ken Ferris
LONDON (Reuters) – Leading sponsors of football’s world governing body have demanded independent oversight of FIFA’s reform process in an open letter published on Tuesday ahead of a key meeting to finalise proposed reforms at the scandal-plagued organisation.
The companies — Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Adidas, The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s Corp and Visa Inc. — aimed their letter at FIFA’s executive committee, which meets this week.
FIFA’s reform committee chairman Francois Carrard will put its recommendations to the executive committee on Wednesday and Thursday and they will be publicly presented afterwards.
Last month the reform committee published its “preliminary recommendations” which suggested an age limit of 74 for all leading officials, but only mentioned term-limits for the president, who would be restricted to three mandates.
The final list of proposed reforms will be put to FIFA’s 209 member associations at an emergency Congress in February.
FIFA is facing unprecedented pressure to overhaul its governance and improve transparency following the May indictment by U.S. authorities of 14 football officials and sports marketing executives on corruption-related charges.
Many of those indicted by U.S. authorities had served on FIFA’s executive committee or other FIFA panels.
“We are aware of the positive work that the reform committee has been doing on governance reform but we still believe any reforms should be subject to independent oversight,” the sponsors’ letter, published on www.coca-colacompany.com, said.
“It has also become clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process.
“We encourage you to become champions of this independent oversight as it will only enhance FIFA’s credibility.”
Domenico Scala, who heads FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, has produced an extensive package of proposed reforms that he has made public and given to the executive committee.
They include 12-year term limits for elected FIFA officials from the president down, full disclosure of the financial compensation of the president, general secretary and executive committee members, and more detailed integrity checks on members of committees.
The sponsors’ letter added: “We urge you (the executive committee members) to embrace positive changes and recognise that this is just one step towards creating a credible future for FIFA.”
The companies also said transparency, accountability, respect for human rights, integrity, leadership and gender equality were crucial to the future of FIFA.
“Reforms can set the proper framework for these characteristics, but a cultural change is also needed,” the letter added. “The culture change has to begin within FIFA and filter through to the Confederations and FIFA’s Football Associations.”
The FIFA crisis escalated in October when its president Sepp Blatter and UEFA chief Michel Platini, who had been favourite to succeed him, were banned for 90 days by FIFA’s ethics committee pending a full investigation into a two million Swiss francs ($1.95 million) payment from FIFA to Platini in 2011.
Swiss public prosecutors are also investigating alleged irregularities in decisions to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar, both taken at a vote in Zurich in December 2010.
(Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Toby Davis)