UN's Lemke says FIFA's Blatter 'is not corrupt'

UN's special adviser on sport says while FIFA chief should have gone sooner, he is "convinced he is not corrupt".

    Lemke (right) says FIFA has been working on reforms for months and he is confident about the process [Getty Images]
    Lemke (right) says FIFA has been working on reforms for months and he is confident about the process [Getty Images]

    Ban Ki-moon's special adviser on sport has defended outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter, saying he was not corrupt and was pushing through deeper reforms of the world soccer body than he was getting credit for.

    Wilfried Lemke, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, said Blatter had made "very bad mistakes" by not controlling "where money went and what people did", but it was wrong to portray him as "the baddest guy in the world".

    "No, he (Sepp Blatter) is not a victim. He has his responsibility, and he made some very bad mistakes, because he didn't control where money went and what people did," Lemke told the Reuters news agency.

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    "I am totally convinced that he is not corrupt, but if you read the papers all around the world and you would ask people around the world, they would say 'Oh, this is the most corrupt man in the world,' and this is definitely not correct.

    "What I say, he has his responsibility and he has also now finally to resign, if I would be him or if he would have asked me before, I would (have) say, 'You should have gone some years before'."

    FIFA announced on Monday that it would set up a task force to propose reforms aimed at cleaning itself up, a move critics said was an inadequate response to a corruption scandal that has created the worst crisis in the 111-year history of soccer's governing body.

    Lemke said picking a neutral chairman of the reform task force would be very difficult. He declined to say who might be the best candidate, but said it should be a very honourable man or woman who was financially independent, loves football, but has not been involved with FIFA.

    "He must be very free, independent, he must have no financial interest in getting this job, he must be totally, on a financial basis, totally independent, and for my personal point of view, it would be good if he is not from Europe, because that makes things easier to deal a good compromise. So, also, it would be good if he is not, has not been involved in FIFA thing the last 20 or 30 years," he said.

    Reforms should include limiting the terms of top FIFA officials and changing the bidding process for World Cup host countries to ensure a balance of power between the different continents, but most of all FIFA needed transparency.

    "There must be a total change in the minds of all the responsible people. It should be all, and totally transparency, so we have to focus on this at first. And then, there have to be other reforms like time period that people can work in the top functions of FIFA, and we have another big thing like how we can change the bidding process of upcoming World Cups, and how we can balance that out, the power of interest between the different continental federations," Lemke said.

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    Lemke, who was general manager of German soccer club Werder Bremen for 18 years, said he has known Blatter for 30 years and now earns a nominal $1 per year in his role, although he joked that the UN had yet to pay him.

    FIFA had been working on reforms for months at its Zurich headquarters, away from the public eye, and he was optimistic about the process.

    He said FIFA should be praised for much of its work in the past and he hoped the next president would not forget their responsibility for grass roots sports all over the world.

    For real change at FIFA though, Blatter's successor should be a woman, he said.


    SOURCE: Reuters


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