New FIFA Now recently created a survey for the FIFA Presidential candidates.
I thought it might be an interesting academic exercise to answer the survey. While it took some time to finish, I think it is as important for the candidates to go through a similar process as it is for prospective small business owners to write a business plan before starting their business.
Here are my answers. They are not set in stone and I am open to persuasion if a good case is made. (All typos are mine, and unintentional.)
Question 2: It's the first day in the job? What would you address as your top three priorities?
(Other; Gap between rich & poor clubs; Privatisation of clubs; Gender equity; Match fixing; Independent, external governance reform; Restoring the reputation & credibility of FIFA; How to deal with Qatar 2022; How to deal with Russia 2018; Racism; Use of technology in football)
Priority 1. For me the clear winner has to be restoring the reputation & credibility of FIFA. The President's raision d'etre is to run the organisation in a way that reflects it in the best possible light. To do this, it needs to be fair, transparent and accountable, concepts that are in danger of becoming buzzwords as more and more people who ignored the lack of these ideals in the past start to say that they are needed. Some of the options listed in the question might well contribute to this, but they are only sideshows to the main event. Possibly the most important task of any leader is to clearly communicate what is acceptable. The leader should be clear about what sort of culture the organisation should have and repeat this often to the other members of the organisation.
What is the ultimate purpose of football? My answer is that it should improve people's lives through providing opportunities for achievement, personal growth, friendship, international cooperation and understanding, a means for many to make a living, health and fitness and a feeling of community and belonging. In fact this should probably be the ultimate goal of every organisation, from the United Nations to the local badminton club to libraries to ballet companies. We just have different modes of delivery.
We should stop talking about the football 'family' which has some negative connotations. I've always felt it is a football community. Many times I meet people in contexts away from football and recognise them from my encounters with them through football, be they opponents, coaches, referees, journalists or whatever. There is a mutual respect and shared understanding, but generally I don't think of them as family.
To sum up, FIFA should do everything it can to improve the lives of the people it serves, just like any national government should do. To do that it needs the best possible reputation and the highest level of credibility attainable.
Priority 2. Independent, external governance reform. Poor governance and twentieth century thinking is what got FIFA into its current mess, which has resulted in a high proportion of its former leaders being banned or suspended or resigning. Of course, this is clearly a subsection of the answer to Priority 1 above.
Priority 3. Gender equity. Women's football has grown in leaps and bounds in the last 35-40 years but this is not reflected in the administratiuon of the game, in the number of FIFA worldwide tournaments for women, in the number of women coaches and referees or even at all in many countries. I would hope and expect that eliminating the gender imbalance would be dealt with automatically as part of Priority 2.
Of course the other issues are important too but if the first three priorities are taken care of properly I believe the remainder will inevitably be dealt with satisfactorily.
Question 3: Would you agree to an independent external reform committee led by an eminent person to develop and implement governance reforms in FIFA, as advocated by advocacy groups and some sponsors?
My record shows that I've been an advocate for governance reform long before advocacy groups and sponsors started demanding it. I'm not sure it needs to be done by an eminent person (depending on your definition of 'eminent'), but it should be done by someone who is both a governance expert and independent. There are still too many people within FIFA with conflicts of interest for FIFA to undertake this task itself, even if those people have the best of intentions. Also FIFA has plenty of purely football issues work on. It is easy to imagine a situation where football is neglected while FIFA becomes bogged down in how to reform. Let FIFA continue running and improving football while someone independent and competent works on reforming the governance structure.
Question 4: Regardless of the outcomes of investigations, do you think there should be a re-run of the vote for Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022?
Definitely no revote for Russia 2018. Russia is a big country with a long football pedigree that is fully capable of hosting the event in a way that closely matches its bid document. The preparations are well in place and without knowing the outcomes of investigations I don't see how the tournament could reasonably be taken away. Of course there are questions about possible corruption, racism, etc., but we should remember that all countries have similar problems. Take a look at the current US election campaign or shootings involving police officers for example. We also know or have reason to believe that other bidding nations didn't run totally clean bids, among them England and Spain. It is easy to identify problems in other countries but can be much harder to see some of those same problems in your own country. Of course, if there were compelling evidence that egregious corruption occurred, that could change things, but that's not what this question asked.
Qatar 2022 is a little more problematic. The tournament has been moved from the June/July timeframe that the rules said must be followed, to a winter time slot that will greatly affect major club competitions. The tournament infrastructure is allegedly being constructed in many cases by poorly treated and underpaid migrant workers. There are question marks over what the fans would do during the day, with the tournament traditionally being an event involving quite a lot of alcohol consumption. There is also the question of homosexuality being illegal which we now find unacceptable, though I would note in passing that no-one batted an eyelid when Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympic Games, even though sodomy was illegal in the state of Georgia at the time. The attitudes of many (not all) in the West have changed quickly after a very long period of intolerance towards gays but most of the world has not yet followed suit.
I would prefer that Qatar host the tournament in summer if possible, with the cooled stadiums the bid promised and perhaps evening and nighttime kick-offs. But this would also require dozens of events held in cooled areas for spectators between matches. Also, huge progress needs to be made on the employment conditions for the construction and other migrant workers. It is not acceptable for hundreds of people to die in exchange for a month-long football tournament. The latest report from Amnesty International suggests that almost none of the improvements for workers have been enacted. This failure to honour agreed reforms might well provide a legal way for FIFA to remove the tournament from Qatar. Unfortunately this is now a no win situation. Leave the tournament in Qatar and hundreds of thousands of workers could potentially suffer. Take it away and you are left with a bunch of half-finished stadiums and thousands who died or suffered for nothing. This is why it's so important that a scoring rubric is set up, part of which should look at the ability of the hosts to deliver the required infrastructure in a manner that is acceptable to global community.
If Qatar does eventually host the tournament, I imagine it would still be a 'success' from a purely financial standpoint, with any fan boycotts being offset by an increase in fans from the Middle East, but clearly there are bigger issues to consider. Remember, I suggested as part of my answer to Question 2 that FIFA should ultimately be concerned with improving people's lives. Having hundreds of thousands work in miserable conditions is clearly at odds with that goal.
Question 5: If corruption were proven against them, as a matter of principle, would you take away the World Cup from Russia 2018 or Qatar2022?
I am answering this question independently of the previous question, where I have already suggested that 2022 could be moved for reasons unrelated to corruption.
It depends on the level of corruption. Other bidding countries are also known not to have followed the rules and offered various inducements to the Exco of the time. At some point it would need to be determined whether the level of corruption was out of whack with what was, unfortunately, apparently the norm not just for 2018 and 2022, but also some of the preceding tournaments, among them France 1998 and Germany 2006, as recent revelations involving Chuck Blazer and Franz Beckenbauer have brought to light. It seems many of the bids were just following the accepted protocol of the time, i.e. if you want to win the bid, you have to offer the Exco members something in return.
What we can say is there is no way we can allow this sort of quid pro quid situation to occur in any future bids.
Question 6: Knowing what you know today, if the vote for 2018 was held again, who would you vote for?
It's very difficult to answer this sort of question in retrospect. Probably England is the 'safe' option, but the idea of taking the tournament to new countries is appealing, so I couldn't rule out the other bids. I would need to see the bid documents and the comments from the FIFA evaluation teams.
Question 7: Knowing what you know today, if a vote for 2022 was held again, who would you vote for?
This one's easy. I always hoped Australia would win. It is such a sports mad country and I think it would host an amazing World Cup, just as it held a fantastic Asian Nations Cup. It's a shame the bidding team got involved in crazy shenanigans with some disreputable individuals. But if the correct culture had been in place in FIFA at the time of the vote in 2010, I believe Australia would have felt able to run a clean bid.
I should add that I would like to see a CONCACAF nation host in 2026. The USA would be favourites, but Canada and Mexico could also probably host wonderful tournaments.
Question 8: Do you think that international sports federations have a role to play in considering broader issues such as human rights in potential host nations when making decisions about where events are hosted?
Absolutely. It became clear to me that instead of leaving the decision up to the whims and idiosyncracies of each Exco member, a scoring rubric needs to be developed with sensible weightings accorded to each aspect. Some things, such as a suitable climate and relatively clean human rights record should be either mandatory or very heavily weighted. Other things would still be scored but with lower weightings, such as whether the country has previously held the tournament, for example, the existing football culture, the potential to lead to an increase in participation in the host nation/region, etc. Coming up with the rubric sounds like a perfect job for someone like Bonita Mersiades!
Question 9: Will you pursue issues such as reform to the kafala system in Qatar as President?
Yes as long as Qatar is still hosting the World Cup. No in the event that the tournament is moved elsewhere. FIFA has a rule that governments cannot get involved in football matters. By making kafala a football issue, FIFA would practically be forcing the government of Qatar to become involved in football matters. As distateful as we may find the kafala system, it is not FIFA's job to fix everything that is wrong with the world unless it directly affects football.
Question 10: Would you consider an independent voting process for future major events such as the World Cup? For example, an expert external panel making the decision based on assessments based on cost-benefit (to FIFA and the host nation), technical capacity,security and player and fan enjoyment?
As I noted in my answer to Question 8, I definitely want to see a scoring rubric created and every bidding nation should know how the scoring will be done prior to even starting work on their bids. Without it, the process cannot be fair or transparent and there can be no accountability. These are the three pillars that everyone says they want. Whoever creates the rubric should also be capable of deciding who should be on the voting panel.
Question 11: Would you institute term limits for FIFA Executive Committee members?
Yes. Two terms of four years each would be my preference. It seems that the potential bad done by a bad Exco member in three terms would probably outweigh the potential good done by a good Exco member. New blood is vital to keep organisations from going stale, but of course there should be continuity measures in place too that allow for smooth transitions from one member to the next.
Question 12: Would you institute age limits for FIFA Executive Committee members?
No, provided there are term limits. Age limits seem like they are just a way to prevent people from hanging around too long. There are plenty of people in their seventies and eighties capable of making a positive contribution, and some of them may remember issues from the past that are unknown to younger people. I would hope that term limits would be introduced so age limits are unnecessary.
Question 13: Do you think the report into the ISL case should be published?
Yes, with redactions. Almost all of the people involved have left FIFA or are about to leave, but I think it's important that the truth is told and the air is cleared. The words transparency and accountability once again come to mind.
Question 14: Do you think the Garcia Report should be published?
Yes, with redactions. Frankly the entire process turned into a farce. Let's publish and be damned, let people see the evidence and then we can determine as a community what measures need to be taken in response.
Question 15: Two women whistleblowers were all but identified & disparaged by the Eckert Summary Report. As President, would you apologise to them on behalf of FIFA?
Of course. It should have been done as soon as the issue became known. Let's not wait decades or hundreds of years like has been done by various governments and religious institutions in the past. Admit your mistakes and then you can move forward.
Question 16: Would you introduce independent external non-executive directors to the Executive Committee?
I think there are some good reasons to consider this, but as I noted in my answer to Question 3, I would leave these types of decisions to the people in charge of reforming the organisation. I've already said FIFA should not be in charge of this.
Question 17: Do you think other key stakeholders, such as players and fans, should have an input into the nomination and voting process for the FIFA Presidency and Executive Committee?
Probably, but you wouldn't want important decisions to come down to a popularity contest so the method used to incorporate players and fans need to be carefully thought out. However, my answer is ultimately the same as for the last question.
Question 18: Do you think the professional players group should be directly represented on the FIFA Executive Committee?
This is already covered in Question 17. But I would ask why would we limit it just to professionals?
Question 19: Do you think fans should have representation on the FIFA Executive Committee?
Again I see some merits, I'd worry about popularity contests, and these decisions should be left to the independent experts in charge of reform.
Question 20: Would you publish annually the total remuneration package of all Executive Committee members, other committee members and senior executive management of FIFA?
Yes. I would also publish their voting records and the extent to which their initiatives have contributed to the organisation's key performance indicators.
Question 21: Subject to commercial or personnel confidentiality, would you publish the minutes of the FIFA Executive Committee and other relevant committees on the FIFA website?
Yes. I would also consider live video streams of meetings discussing issues of high interest to the worldwide football community.
Question 22: Would you introduce a pecuniary interests register for all Executive Committee members, other Committee members and senior executive management?
I would like to see this. It goes along with transparency and accountability.
Question 23: Which option best describes how you would handle a personal conflict of interest?
(Other; I would take part in the discussion but not the decision; I would have nothing further to do with the matter until a decision is made; I can't see any situation where I would have a conflict of interest; I see no reason to do anything)
At this stage I can't see any situation where I would have a conflict of interest, but I am fully aware that such a situation could potentially occur. I would state my reasons for not being involved in the discussion, answer any questions addressed to me, and then leave it up to the rest of the committee to make a decision without my input.
Question 24: Would you agree to an independent external audit of FIFA's development programmes around the world?
Absolutely. I worked in the development field from 1987-91 and am reasonably au fait with a lot of the issues. Rather than just knowing whether the money has been spent where it should have been, I would be interested in knowing to what extent the various projects have met their stated goals. This analysis should be published on the FIFA website.
FIFA should also tap into the knowledge of organisations like the UNDP (superbly led by New Zealander Helen Clark, by the way), the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD, and experienced donor nations such as Norway to learn how to better run development programmes.
I should add that not too long ago I downloaded all the available GOAL Project data from the FIFA website for the period up to 2014 and some things that stood out included the difficulty in pulling the information from the website, the relatively low level of funding given to African nations (in total the top ten African recipients received less than the amount spent on making the United Passions movie) and some surprising nations near the top of the recipient league tables, including Bahrain and the UAE.
Clearly there is huge scope to improve these programmes. The overall concept is good, but the money should be spent according to predetermined rules with specific goals in mind, rather than at the whim of the Exco.
Question 25: Would you require all member associations in receipt of development funding to publicly account for the funding it receives?
Yes, along with how all income and expenditures moves in and out of the national federations. It shouldn't just be limited to FIFA development funding.
Question 26: Would you institute proceedings to recover at least some of the money that has been lost to the game over years because of corruption?
It's a nice thought. I would need to check with the legal team to determine how easy it would be to do this, and what the potential costs would be versus the potential benefits.
Unnumbered Question, presumably 27: On a scale of 1-10, where 1 = Terrible and 10 = Fantastic, how do you think FIFA (not the game of football) is viewed by the global community overall?
My surprise answer is somewhere around 7. First of all, keeping an eye on FIFA is relatively low on most people's to-do lists. Secondly, FIFA is actually very well regarded in most of the developing world, thanks to the various hand-outs they have given out and increased automatic spots at FIFA tournaments for non-UEFA members under the Sepp Blatter Presidency. At the other end of the scale, there are people like you and me who believe FIFA has been a power hungry, shoddily run kleptocracy for many years. I would say the average score is probably 6-7, but the standard deviation of those scores is very high.
We should also remember that the vast majority of FIFA staff are in all likelihood competent, professional and ethical. It is just the upper level Exco that gives the organisation a bad name.
Question 28: What is your 'elevator pitch' to football fans? (If you had 45 seconds in an elevator with a group of fans, how would you convince them you're the best person for the job.)
At heart I am one of the fans. I love the game, the actors, the drama, the feeling of being part of something big. I value the game above my own personal ambitions and want to see it thrive. The fans want to see good football, good refereeing, fair competitions, comfortable stadiums, reasonably priced admission and recognition that they are a vitally important segment of the game. And that is what I want. I have lived in four of the six Confederations and visited the other two and have good friends from around the world, so I understand the need to be even-handed in my actions. I also support term limits so if I am really bad at the job they would be rid of me in eight years at the most!
Question 29: What is your 'elevator pitch' to professional players? (If you had 45 seconds in an elevator with a group of professional players, how would you convince them you're the best person for the job.)
Let's be honest. The very top level players don't care who runs FIFA, as long as they still get the chance to earn megabucks, play in the biggest games, win a bunch of medals, drive fast cars, buy big mansions and pick up attractive women (or men). However, such players make up a tiny proportion of all professional players around the world.
The professionals we need to think about are the ones who play in smaller countries or lower level leagues in big countries, for teams like Alloa Athletic, Enugu Rangers, Atromitos, Cajamarca, Suchitepequez or Sarawak, plus of course, every single professional female player. These players need to know that they play for clubs that are viable and won't suddenly lay them off because of financial issues. They want decent training facilities, playing surfaces, referees, payment (and this should always be on time), the opportunity to progress, high quality medical treatment, a decent welfare system in the case that their careers are shortened by injury, and the feeling that they are an important part of the football community whose views are listened to and acted upon.
I am concerned about the future of Wellington Phoenix, a New Zealand-based club playing in Australia's professional A-League. The club was invited to join the league a number of years ago because it was felt they would add to the league. They have proved to be financially viable, well-supported and competitive on the field, and have acted as a pathway for players not just from New Zealand (Kosta Barbarouses, Marco Rojas, etc.) but also Australia (e.g. Nathan Burns) and the Pacific (e.g. Ben Totori and Roy Krishna). Now there is concern that they will be axed from the A-League for reasons that appear to change every few days, none of which appear to hold much water. Kicking Wellington out of the league would prove disastrous for New Zealand football, not to mention the current players, coaching staff and other employees.
I think back to the ultimate aim of football, which should be to improve people's lives.
Question 30: Which statement is closest to what would you believe is needed to address anti-corruption measures in football? (No statements are included on the PDF version of the survey.)
I'll have to play this one by ear. What is most needed is a change in FIFA culture, with the President repeating the expectations under the new culture on a frequent basis. Also:
- An increase in diversity amongst Exco members with an increase in women, more realistic membership by Confederation and a diversity of age and backgrounds should also be implemented.
- The Exco should lead by example by being transparent over the goals of FIFA, their personal remuneration and their voting record.
- All of this information should be easily accessible via the FIFA website.
- Rules for development programme funding, football competitions and votes should be clearly stated before any ball is kicked, bid book word is typed or campaign speech is given.
- An improved judicial system that clearly sets out not only the rules but how they are set, what penalties can be applied, who gets to be involved in these matters and how they are elected and removed from office must be established. The recent case involving Palestine versus Saudi Arabia in World Cup Qualifying is an example of something that should have been better handled by only having clearly independent panel members.
- All conflicts of interest should be stated and the people involved should not be allowed to vote on affected issues.
- It should be recognised that ALL members of the football community could potentially be pressured into acting unethically and therefore the aim should be to administer a mandatory education campaign pointing out the potential pitfalls to the entire football community.
Question 31: Is there anything else you wish to add? For example, if you wish to provide further information related to any of the questions, or anything else you would like to bring to our attention.
Many football-related things.
I would like to see experimentation with World Cup formats to encourage more attacking play and lessen the chance of games where teams can achieve mutually beneficial results (e.g. like West Germany 1 Austria 0 in 1982). I don't see any way a 40-team World Cup can be held with eight groups of five teams.
I would like to see the opportunity for national teams from Oceania to play more meaningful matches than the handful of WCQ games they play every four-year cycle. Combining Oceania with Asia qualifying with five teams guaranteed to progress would be a win-win for these two Confederations.
There should be the same tournaments available for female players as there are for male players, with the same number of teams participating in all of them.
The Oceania representative in the FIFA Club World Cup should not automatically have to play the host nation's team in the first round. The previous year's final standings should determine which teams enter when. This would mean clubs are playing for their Confederations and a fifth-place match could become meaningful.
I would like to see the FIFA Rankings revised so they are fair (for example, immediately remove the COnfederation Coefficient part of the formula) and better reflect the reality of how teams compare.
I would like to see a worldwide, online player eligibility database established so that teams know before they play which players are eligible to play and which aren't. This would cover suspensions, nationality issues, and age-related issues. I would hope this would eliminate a lot of the instances where teams win on the field and then see the result being overturned. I feel situations like this reflect badly on the game and FIFA.
I am interested in promoting opportunities for older players. Imagine an Over 40 and/or Over 50 World Cup for both men and women. Lots of players retire not because they want to but because they can no longer play at a level that allows them to be competitive. Other sports, notably golf and tennis, provide opportunities for people who love the game to keep playing as they age. Why not football?
I would like to see some scholarships made available for qualified individuals who lack the financial resources to attend the FIFA Master's Degree programme. Perhaps some revenue from fines could be set aside for this. In addition, I would like to see this programme expanded, perhaps to universities in other parts of the world such as Asia, Africa or the Americas, to increase the number of skilled and qualified football administrators.
I would like to see some changes to the laws of the game, with clarifications on what constitutes handling, what counts as denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity, when encroachment on a penalty kick should be sanctioned, what amount and type of contact constitutes a foul, more consistency in determining stoppage time, retroactive punishments for players who dive or feign injuries or attempt to get their opponents sent off, and an overall increase in consistency within leagues, countries and confederations. In addition I would like to see experiments in the use of video technology with a view to permitting it worldwide for those leagues who desire to do so.