FIFA publishes anti-corruption code of conduct

Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — FIFA published a new code of conduct for all soccer players and officials on Thursday that includes orders to reject bribery and corruption in the game.

FIFA sent drafts of the code's 11 core principles to 208 soccer nations ahead of their annual Congress next month in Budapest, Hungary, which promises modest progress in President Sepp Blatter's two-year mission to repair FIFA's reputation after bribery and alleged World Cup vote-rigging scandals.

The code urges the FIFA soccer family to "reject and condemn all forms of bribery and corruption," behave ethically at all times and not bet on soccer.

"The observance of the principles laid down in the code of conduct is essential to FIFA and its objectives," the governing body states in the document.

Failure to follow the code "might jeopardize the integrity of matches or competitions or give rise to abuse of association football."

A FIFA-appointed transparency task force will present its conduct charter on May 25 to stress the need for better behavior in soccer's ranks, including on the field after a slew of match-fixing investigations worldwide.

"It's the start of a new era," task force member Allan Hansen, Denmark's soccer president, told The Associated Press by telephone. "The code of conduct is one of the tools for the nominations committee to use."

The nominations unit is planned to work within FIFA's new independent ethics committee to screen all officials — including Blatter — for their suitability for office.

Also in Budapest, a separate task force analyzing soccer's statutes will suggest an age limit of 72 for all FIFA candidates, and an eight-year limit for future presidents. The advisory panel also wants to remove two of Europe's three FIFA vice presidencies, including one reserved for the four British countries.

However, votes on those proposals are unlikely as few reforms were advanced last month by Blatter's executive committee. It stalled most ideas suggested by an independent panel of experts chaired by Swiss law professor Mark Pieth, overseeing the task force efforts.

"Of course, we would have liked the whole reform proposal to be decided sooner rather than later, but we respect the democratic process that will lead to a decision in 2013," Pieth said in an emailed statement to the AP.

Still, member countries will be asked in Budapest to choose leaders of Pieth's proposed new ethics and compliance committees. Those newcomers to soccer will be free to launch anti-corruption probes, judge cases and monitor FIFA's billion-dollar annual spending.

Aside from Blatter's reforms, the Congress includes proposals for a new disciplinary sanction ordering players or officials to perform social work, and prohibiting referees and match officials being paid in cash for working at international matches.

World Cup issues for discussion include the "professionalization of refereeing" — a favored Blatter project after high-profile errors at the 2010 tournament— and increasing FIFA's promised $70 million fund to compensate clubs for letting their players go to Brazil in 2014.

The 76-year-old Blatter will take center stage in Budapest, exactly one year after he was re-elected to a fourth and final presidential term with FIFA in crisis and his reputation at risk.

"We have been hit and I personally have been slapped. I don't want that ever again," Blatter said then in Zurich, days after his only election rival, Mohamed bin Hammam, withdrew following accusations of bribing Caribbean voters.

The election scandal came six months after the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights were awarded to Russia and Qatar, following widespread allegations of wrongdoing by several executive committee members.

"There were unmistakable calls for more transparency at world football's governing body," Blatter writes in the Budapest agenda document. "The implementation will be a step-by-step process and I am committed to doing everything in my power to fulfill this promise."

However, FIFA has blocked Pieth's "fundamental" request for his elected outsiders to get seats in Blatter's decision-making inner circle and provide impartial oversight.

FIFA's revised statutes suggest Pieth's candidates "may not be" executive committee members and will take part only on discussions relating directly to their work.

Pieth accepted that compromise on Thursday, writing that "they are thus fully informed and they can intervene if they think it is their duty."

In other Congress business, FIFA will accept South Sudan as its 209th member and further tighten rules prohibiting use of ordinary courts, after Swiss club FC Sion threatened to disrupt UEFA's Europa League and the Swiss League this season.

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