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FIFA removes ‘corruption’ from newly amended code of ethics

FIFA removes ‘corruption’ from newly amended code of ethics
August 15, 2018
Legal / Sport /

World football governing body FIFA has removed the word ‘corruption’ from the latest version of the code of ethics governing the conduct of its executives, board members and stakeholders.

Instead, the game’s new ethics code has introduced an offence of ‘defamatory statements’ against FIFA which can see those making them banned from football for up to five years, as well as a sunset period on breaches of the ethics code related to bribery.

Corruption was scrubbed as an official misdemeanour during recent meetings where executives thrashed out the first overhaul of the code since a wave of scandals hit the governing body in 2015.

In a move seen as making it easier for FIFA to banish critics, no specific examples have been provided as to what defines ‘defamation’ providing flexibility for the ethics committee to decide on the burden of proof.

Section 22.2 of the new code states “persons bound by this code are forbidden from making any public statements of a defamatory nature towards FIFA and/or towards any other person bound by this code in the context of FIFA events.”

The ethics code was first introduced in 2004 by former President Sepp Blatter, with it leading to hime being expelled from the FIFA Presidency for financial misconduct in 2015.

Additionally, the code now states that ethics prosecutors have five years to complete cases into other general breaches of the code - half the previous time permitted to uncover wrongdoing.

The new code allows lead ethics prosecutor Maria Claudia Rojas to enter into plea bargains to resolve cases that do not involve bribery, misappropriation of funds or match fixing.

Campaign group, #NewFIFANow says the changes are further evidence that FIFA in its current form is not fit for purpose according to campaign group, #NewFIFANow.

NewFIFANow co-founder Bonita Mersiades stated “the impact of these changes is twofold.

“First, it will stop people who may have been persuaded to speak out from doing so. That was already difficult enough for many people, especially when their livelihoods are at stake, but it is even more so when they also potentially face a lawsuit they can’t afford, and being banished from the game.

“Second, major crimes, such as those in which some world football administrators and marketers have proven or alleged to have been involved, can take years if not decades, to be uncovered and investigated.

“By FIFA arbitrarily declaring through its ethics code that a bribe is no longer a bribe in FIFA’s eyes if it’s more than ten years old does nothing to give the sport or the current administration any credibility.”

Mersiades said that an organisation committed to best practice transparency and accountability would assist relevant authorities if it became aware of potential criminal acts, not try to keep it quiet for 10 years, adding “these changes to the ethics code are further evidence of this. The changes do nothing to enhance the credibility of FIFA as an organisation, or of its President."

Images: FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland (top) and NewFIFANow co-founder Bonita Mersiades (below).

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