The president of the Swiss-based International Football Federation (Fifa) has pledged to change the way corruption allegations are investigated.
Sepp Blatter also said football’s governing body is prepared to examine any “credible” evidence of past wrongdoing.
Hailing a “historic day for Fifa’s reform process” after a series of scandals, Blatter on Friday announced a reform of its ethics committee to create separate investigating and prosecuting units with new, independent leaders.
Blatter said the proposal presented by Fifa’s anti-corruption adviser Mark Pieth got strong backing from his executive committee, some of whom have recently been cleared of corruption allegations.
“Unanimously they agreed to this new approach in our, let’s say, efforts for more transparency and integrity,” Blatter said at a news conference to reveal the latest advances in a promised two-year drive to clean up the world football body.
Fifa’s reputation has been rocked by claims of bribery and vote-rigging that marred the organisation’s presidential election campaign last year, and the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests which were voted on in December 2010.
The credibility of the Zurich-based Fifa was also harmed when the existing, single-chamber ethics committee failed to gather enough evidence to prosecute some allegations.
“Fifa has shown a lack of pro-active and systematic follow-up on allegations,” Pieth wrote in a report submitted to the organisation on behalf of his 13-member expert panel advising on transparency and clean government.
“In some instances, allegations were insufficiently investigated,” he added.
The revamped ethics court could start work immediately after being approved by Fifa’s 208 member nations in May.
The new ethics committee will have the possibility to initiate investigation in case of credible allegations, according to Blatter.
Pieth, a professor of law at Basel University and a former United Nations investigator, recommended in his report that the new ethics body’s “procedures and organisational measures will be applicable to past behaviour.”
Observers point that that one of Pieth’s fundamental demands looks likely to be met, with Fifa set to allow outsiders unconnected to Blatter’s so-called “football family” to oversee the judicial process.
Fifa said Pieth will choose three candidates to chair each of the investigative and judging chambers, and member countries will vote at a the congress in Hungary on May 25.
The congress is also to approve an audit and compliance committee exerting tighter financial controls on the world governing body, which shares much of its billion-dollar income with its member federations.
Blatter said the congress also should co-opt Fifa’s first female member of the executive committee, which is currently a 24-man panel.
Football’s world governing body has been dogged by allegations of corruption for many years.
Fifa set up an ethics committee in 2006 to look into media allegations of corruption surrounding the sport.
In 2008 a judicial case in Zug implicated unnamed Fifa officials in a multi-million dollar kickback scandal involving bankrupt sport marketing firm ISMM-ISL. The identities of the officials have never been released, but Fifa has now promised to name names.
Last year, the heads of the Nigerian and Oceanic football confederations were suspended along with other Fifa officials following claims of bribery during the vote to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar.
Blatter was re-elected for a fourth term as Fifa president in June 2011. His rival Mohamed bin Hammam was later banned for life after being found guilty of bribery. Jack Warner, a Fifa vice-president who also faced allegations of corruption, resigned.
Blatter also appointed opera singer Placido Domingo and former United States diplomat Henry Kissinger to a “solutions panel” to look into the scandals surrounding Fifa.
Last October, Fifa announced the formation of four task forces to look at the revision of statutes, ethics, transparency and compliance and the running of the next World Cup in 2014.
It appointed Pieth as chairman of Fifa’s Independant Governance Committee in November to recommend reforms of the organisation based on reports from the four task forces.