Reform, Blatter key themes for FIFA Congress

Reform the theme for FIFA Congress; Blatter watched closely for signs he might run again

Associated Press
FIFA highlights reforms, Blatter salary a secret
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FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter addresses the delegates during the 37th Ordinary UEFA Congress in London, Friday, May 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius (AP) -- FIFA's willingness to heed criticism and enact reforms will be tested at a meeting this week when soccer's governing body tries to move past two years of scandals.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter was to report on the reforms already undertaken last year at Tuesday's executive committee meeting. The 209 member countries will then vote on more proposed changes for greater transparency and accountability at the two-day FIFA Congress that opens Thursday.

Blatter, in his introduction to the agenda, said he looks forward to bringing FIFA up to the "highest standards of good governance, as befits an organization such as ours."

The president also said in response to criticism that FIFA wasn't taking reform seriously: "It'd be unfair to say we are not doing well."

The congress will elect a first permanent female member of the formerly men-only executive committee. The 77-year-old Blatter could indicate if he intends to seek another four-year term. When re-elected in 2011 he said this would be his last term. The Swiss has been in charge of FIFA since 1998. The next election is in two years and he would be 83 at the end of another term.

On Tuesday, the executive committee delayed a proposal to limit age and terms for its officials until at least next year, saying there's "no consensus" among member countries and a "more thorough analysis is required."

"I've already said I was against the age limit as I believe it is not a relevant criteria, not everyone is the same at 60, 70, 80," Blatter said. "Passion makes the difference."

Other matters include sterner punishments for racism in soccer, match-fixing and Brazil's preparations for the 2014 World Cup.

Setbacks at some of Brazil's stadiums will prompt closer scrutiny, notably the one in Sao Paolo that was scheduled to open the tournament and may now miss its completion deadline.

FIFA also will make final plans for next month's World Cup warmup event in Brazil, the Confederations Cup, days after a small part of the roof collapsed at one of the stadiums set to host matches.

Meeting on an island famed for being the home of the extinct Dodo bird, FIFA's sternest critics say the game's governing body needs to evolve.

The body has made reforms to its ethics committee and introduced a new code of behavior and vetting procedures since the scandal-ravaged year and congress in 2011. Then, Blatter was re-elected as president after the withdrawal of now disgraced former Asian soccer president Mohamed bin Hammam.

There were also vote-rigging accusations surrounding the choosing of Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, with Blatter conceding that it was a mistake to award two World Cups at the same time.

The congress will also formally adopt the resolution that future World Cup hosts will be decided by all member countries, and not the exclusive executive committee. The executive committee will decide on a shortlist before member associations pick one.

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Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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