Proposed FIFA reforms, including term limits, face rejection

Sheikh Ahmad defended the decision of the reform committee to turn down a proposal for term limits for members of world soccer’s scandal-plagued governing body.

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A leading member of FIFA’s reform committee, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, says up to 40 percent of the reform proposals made by ethics and compliance chief Domenico Scala could be rejected, including plans for term limits for top executives.

Speaking to Reuters, Sheikh Ahmad, one of the key power brokers in international sport, defended the decision of the reform committee to turn down a proposal for term limits for members of world soccer’s scandal-plagued governing body.

Scala had originally been in charge of FIFA’s reform plans before the creation of a Reform Committee headed by Sheikh Ahmad’s ally, former International Olympic Committee director general Francois Carrard.

Scala presented an eight-point plan for reform of FIFA on Sept. 1 but several items have already been rejected by FIFA’s reform committee, according to an interim report published on Oct. 20.

Asked about Scala’s reforms, Sheikh Ahmad said “60-70 percent” of the proposals were being backed by the committee but said term-limits would be restricted to the FIFA president alone.

Scala proposed term limits of three, four-year terms also for members of the Executive Committee, the Secretary General and members of FIFA’s other independent committees.

The Swiss businessman also proposed a system of enforcing the same term-limits for continental confederations and national federations, meaning no-one in the game would be able to hold the same office for more than 12 years.

But the Reform Committee report, which went largely unnoticed after being released at the same time as a raft of news from FIFA’s Executive Committee last month, had no mention of term-limits for other officials other than an age limit of 74.
“But this is normal for a lot of organizations,” said Sheikh Ahmad.

“I think age-limit will achieve the same goals - you will have three or four terms maximum, unless you are young. And if you are young, what is the percentage that is so young to make the rules for them?” he said, talking at the general assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) in Washington last week.

Under the Reform Committee plans, a 40-year-old elected to FIFA’s executive committee would still be able to stay in the job for 34 years.

Scala declined to comment on the work of the Reform Committee but said he stood by the need for widespread term limits and change at national and regional level.

“I believe term limits for all executive committee members are critical and higher governance standards at confederation and association level are also critical as they are the main cause of the current issues,” he told Reuters.

FIFA was thrown into crisis in May when 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on a range of corruption-related charges.

Among those charged were Jeffrey Webb, Jack Warner and Eduardo Li from the CONCACAF regional confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean and Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and Nicolas Leoz from the South American CONMBEOL confederation.

Sheikh Ahmad is a member of the FIFA executive committee and is a leading player in the Olympic movement. He joined the IOC in 1992, and has risen to the role of president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and president of the powerful ANOC.

The Reform Committee will meet again later this month and will present its report to the December FIFA executive committee which will be charged with putting items to the vote in February’s congress.

Scala’s plan also called for members of FIFA’s executive to be elected directly by the congress of all 209 member associations, whereas the Reform Committee says they will retain the power of the regional confederations to elect the representatives.

Following the publication of his recommendations, Scala also suggested that FIFA could have a rotating presidency as part of the changes, but Sheikh Ahmad said that was going too far.

“I don’t believe in this. Just because we are in trouble we don’t have to kill everything. We have to solve the problems without an over-reaction,” he said.