Zurich, Switzerland – Transparency: It’s clear to see what an easy word it is to throw around.
Get it wrong, fake it or claim it, and people will see through you. But aspire to deliver it – doing it voluntarily however tough the path is – and it can do wonders to the reputation of an individual or organisation.
But does Fifa realise this?
We were on sadly familiar ground when we returned to Zurich for another Executive Committee meeting. The agenda doesn’t even reflect the big issue, as so often in the past. Not so much an ‘elephant in the room’ as the entire Zurich zoo (located next door) at Fifa HQ – the world cup bidding corruption report.
If Fifa wants to somehow, finally, restore its reputation and shift the spotlight to some of the good work and good people at the organisation, this is the time to bury the ghosts. Not next year, not in 2018 or 2022 but now.
Can the world governing body not really see what the public thinks of the delivery of this corruption report? And the assertion that it will not be made public?
|Qatar 2022 organisers have denied any wrongdoing in the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup [EPA]|
The report is like a hot potato being thrown around. For those seeking the truth, it is like being kept on hold then passed around a call centre.
Everyone is playing by the rules but why are these rules in place?
Michael Garcia’s role was of an investigator. A thankless task when so many of the corrupt figures from the Executive Committee resigned before properly facing the music.
Garcia, to his credit, wants the report made public. But his powers ceased when he handed it to the FIFA Ethics Committee, specifically Judge Eckert.
No one is questioning his right to take his time pouring over thousands of details before coming to his conclusions. But this is where things start to get unsatisfactory for those demanding transparency.
A simple question: does Eckert have the power to act against bidding nations? Or more pertinently, hosting nations. Could he change the outcome?
“That is not our job,” Eckert said when explaining his powers, or supposed lack of, at FIFA HQ. “We will not make any recommendations.”
Questions asked of FIFA
You don’t need a long memory to recall this same Ethics Committee handing out a succession of lifetime bans, with the notorious 2011 presidential election at the core of the corruption.
But this was about individuals. With individuals, the Ethics Committee does have powers. How convenient for Fifa, some might conclude, that its independent Committee can’t tackle bid committees.
And if Eckert cannot act, who can? This will end up back at the FIFA Executive Committee… spring of 2015 at the earliest.
Now does FIFA seriously consider this acceptable? Is it acceptable to them even?
But the question of reputation is a subtle one. They have a ‘problem with communications’ that needs addressing urgently.
Is this my accusation? Absolutely the contrary. There are smart, clever, likeable, underrated people quietly working wonders in their communications department.
This is the verdict delivered by Fifa’s VP Jeffrey Webb and Michel D’Hooghe at the Soccerex event in Manchester earlier this month.
This is not about people or a department. This is about transparency of an organisation and confusing messages coming from the top.
No one can stop Blatter holding an Ethics Conference at FIFA HQ, which is rather like Manchester United and Van Gaal holding a seminar on defensive excellence in September. And no one can stop him saying Fifa is transparent.
But Mr Blatter, please, we beg of you, if you are reading this, do not treat the public like idiots.
I’ve defended you on-air when imperfect English mangled a message. That’s not a crime but don’t even try the transparency claim. The only transparent thing at Fifa is the glass in the lifts.
If it suits you politically, for 2018 and 2022 controversy rumble on indefinitely, consider the reputation all damage each passing day.
This, sir, is your big opportunity. Demand transparency. Challenge the rules in your own house and publish the report.
This column was first published on Inside World Football where Lee Wellings represents Al Jazeera.