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Reform pressure mounts on FIFA ahead of presidential vote


Zurich:  FIFA’s leadership meets on Monday to decide the date of a vote to replace president Sepp Blatter as a corruption storm inflicts ever worsening damage on world football.

The meeting takes place just two days after Jeffrey Webb, until May a FIFA vice president, made his first appearance in a New York court to deny charges that he accepted millions of dollars in bribes for marketing deals. He was released on $10 million (£6.4m, 9.2m euros) bail.

Webb is one of 14 football officials and business executives facing charges in the United States. He was one of seven FIFA officials detained in a raid on a Zurich hotel ahead of the world body’s congress in May. Two days later Blatter was reelected to a fifth term but within four more days he announced he would organise a new election.

The 79-year-old Swiss, the most powerful figure in sport by many counts, is to announce a date for a new election after Monday’s executive committee meeting. The vote will be held in Zurich sometime between December this year and February 2016.

Following some ambiguous comments in media interviews, Blatter will be pressed to make clear that he is standing down. He did not use the word “resign” when he announced that a new election would be held.

FIFA also faces mounting pressure to quickly start reforms and Blatter is also expected to announce what measures could be proposed to the special election congress.

Top sponsors, such as Coca Cola and McDonald’s, have called for radical changes in the way the multi-billion dollar world body is run after many years of scandal and doubts cast on the way the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.

The US Senate also debated the FIFA scandal this week, highlighting the extent of the world football body’s tarnished reputation.

Coca Cola said in a letter to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) that it has called for an independent commission chaired by an “eminent” person to undertake reforms, the confederation said.

“We are calling for this approach out of our deep commitment to ethics and human rights and in the interest of seeing Fifa succeed,” said the letter. ITUC, which has put the spotlight on the conditions of migrant workers in Qatar, has called for a figure such as former UN secretary general Kofi Annan to head a reform commission.

Fast food giant McDonald’s said it has called for FIFA to make “meaningful changes to restore trust and credibility with fans and sponsors alike.”

“It is now time for the other sponsors to take a stand against corruption and put the game back on track,” ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said.

The Transparency International advocacy group has also called for FIFA’s reforms to be handled by an independent body.

Blatter could announce that measures such as limits on terms for FIFA executive members and greater disclosure of salaries of top officials will be voted at the Congress.

However, critics say this will not be enough to ease the storm.

Even FIFA’s existing ethics committee called this week for greater powers to improve transparency in its dealings. It wants to be able to name officials accused of misconduct and to give more details on why a decision was taken.

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