Fifa has seen seven executives arrested in Zurich, 18 senior football executives charged with money laundering, tax evasion and racketeering in the US and its president resign after just four days of his fifth term.
Despite this resignation, Mr Blatter remains in post until Congress elects a new president, possibly sometime early in 2016.
For decades, Fifa has been linked to allegations of corruption. Much of it dismissed as sour grapes from countries unsuccessful in their World Cup bids. Yet when Mr Blatter’s reform process, led by an independent law professor, is derided as a sham and the head of the ethics committee resigns in frustration at the way his report has been summarised, it is clear there must be something of a problem. The events of the last few weeks would seem to prove this point.
To say that Fifa is operating with something of a trust deficit is clearly an understatement. Yet Fifa is in charge of the biggest single-event sporting competition in the world, loved and watched by millions.
So what must the organisation do to put its house in order?
- Wholesale restructuring of the organisation
When major corporates come under scrutiny for corrupt practices it is expected and often demanded that those responsible are dismissed from the organisation.
So too at Fifa: it won’t be enough just to remove those facing prosecution. Fifa will need to embark on a wholesale restructuring, removing the complete layer of senior management involved in the running of the organisation. When something as serious as this occurs those on watch at the time have got to go. A new team must be built, preferably bringing in a number of qualified outsiders who have no prior association with this or related organisations.
This restructuring should also involve the creation of a new and transparent hierarchy that will review and redesign the bidding process for each Fifa competition, creating an open and transparent system that is monitored, reviewed and reported on.
- Re-design the governance structure
A robust governance structure should be imposed to ensure appropriate levels of scrutiny. As in most corporates and well-run organisations, there should be a split between those running the organisation on a day-to-day basis and the body that holds them to account and is answerable to all stakeholders. Each should have a separate head to mirror the CEO/Chair split in corporates. Regular meetings between these two parts of the organisation must be held with published minutes to ensure openness, transparency and appropriate levels of scrutiny.
- Relocate outside Switzerland
Switzerland has gained a reputation for allowing organisations to operate behind a veil of opacity and secrecy. To demonstrate a real commitment to reform, Fifa should be headquartered in a jurisdiction with a reputation for transparency rather than the opposite.
- Commit to open-book reporting and accounting
Fifa needs to demonstrate a total commitment to open-book reporting and accountancy. There needs to be complete transparency with any and every contract, including those with suppliers, federations, contractors, countries etc.
The salaries of all senior executives should be made public and audited accounts published each year.
- Create an Ethics and Compliance Committee
Fifa is not the first organisation to find itself with a trust deficit. Many corporations, particularly those in heavily regulated industries, employ teams of ethics and compliance professionals to ensure that the right corporate culture is created and embedded throughout the organisation. Fifa tried, but when your head of ethics resigns because their report has been edited – there is clearly a problem
Fifa needs to create such a new ethics and compliance team and take heed of its recommendations. They should be responsible for driving culture change and required to monitor and report publically and freely.
- Devise a new code of conduct
Organisations need a code of conduct to ensure that expectations of behaviour are clearly laid out and understood throughout the organisation. Although Fifa has a Code of Ethics, the principles of which are meant to reflect Fifa’s Code of Conduct, it appears that the Code of Conduct is only available in draft form.
Fifa must develop a robust code of conduct that applies to all Fifa board members, committee members, employees, associations and confederations. Expectations of behaviour, together with clear sanctions, must be made explicit in the code and resources put behind it to ensure that the messages are communicated throughout the Fifa family.
This code must be separate from that which governs players, coaches, match officials and agents for whom the existing Code of Ethics seems to apply.
- Conflict of Interest declaration
Conflicts of interest can lead to poor decision making at best and wholesale corruption or fraud at worst. They are best avoided. That doesn’t mean to say you can never work with someone with whom you have a connection, but that such interests are declared and steps are taken to mitigate any potential risk.
Fifa needs a policy and process for registering and managing conflicts of interests to ensure that this is properly monitored throughout the organisation.
- Review policies
Carefully written and properly implemented policies are vital for protecting organisations. Fifa should review, revise and almost certainly rewrite its policies. They need to look carefully at all the possible risks and identify the areas where the organisation is exposed. From the possible cases pending it would seem that a review of Bribery and Corruption, Whistleblowing and Procurement polices would be a good place to start.
- Training & Communication
Once a Code of Conduct and a good set of policies have been developed, Fifa needs to embark on a training and communications programme to ensure that all the correct messages are received and understood. This could involve workshops, e-training, conferences and seminars, as well as repeated communications messages via social and traditional media outlets. The organisation needs to demonstrate it really does have a zero-tolerance to all forms of corruption and malpractice and this should be explicit throughout Fifa’s global operations.
- Implement a speak-up system
Finally, once the people, systems and processes are in place with an agreed system of checks and balances through on-going monitoring and review – Fifa needs a speak-up system.
Most well-run organisations have a whistleblowing system that can be used as a last line of defence if malpractice is occurring and going unchecked.
Whistleblowing is acknowledged as an essential component of good corporate governance and should be embraced as part of an open and transparent culture.
Such a system should be set up and monitored by the ethics and compliance team with annual reporting on how of the lines are used and how the calls are dealt with.
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