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FIFA, scared by scandal, looks at reform

01 December 2015, 17:03

Zurich - FIFA's much-abused leadership on Wednesday starts a key meeting on reform on the fifth anniversary of one of the most controversial actions ever taken by football's world body.

The December 2, 2010 votes to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar set off a storm of corruption allegations that have still not been cleared up.

In the five years since, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been suspended and is under criminal investigation in Switzerland. Michel Platini, once hot favourite to take over, is also suspended and faces a life ban from football. Sport's most powerful federation is in chaos.

Only seven of the 24 member executive from the ill-fated 2010 vote remain on the team that will start to discuss proposals for change in Zurich on Wednesday and Thursday.

Many of the others, including Platini and German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, are suspended, banned or under arrest.

The executive is to discuss reforms such as age and term limits for FIFA presidents, how to vet the powerful continental confederation chiefs on the executive and make the world body more transparent.

A special FIFA congress on February 26 will choose a new president as well as vote on reforms drawn up by Francois Carrard, former director general of the International Olympic Committee.

Many critics -- including remaining candidates for the FIFA presidency and top sponsors like Coca Cola and Visa -- say that the world body has not learned enough of the lessons from the 2010 vote that still reverberates.

Qatar came from nowhere to win the 2022 World Cup after four rounds of voting -- eliminating Australia, Japan and finally the United States.

Russia beat England, Netherlands-Belgium and Spain-Portugal.

Protests came from far-and-wide. Even US President Barack Obama questioned the election.

Blatter at the time welcomed the move of the World Cup into new territories. But FIFA has paid dearly for the votes financially and in terms of its reputation.

With Qatar a football furnace in the summer, the World Cup will be played in the northern hemisphere winter (November 21 to December 18) for the first time in 2022.

Former Qatar football supremo Mohamed bin Hammam -- one of the 24 executive members in 2010 -- was accused of misconduct and has since been banned for life by FIFA.

Former US prosecutor Michael Garcia investigated the Russia and Qatar bids. But he has quit as FIFA's corruption-buster saying a summary released by the world body had misrepresented his 430-page findings.

FIFA says it cannot release the full report straight away for legal reasons. The controversy rumbles on.

Swiss prosecutors are now investigating the World Cup bids and say they are looking at more than 120 suspicious payments in FIFA's books.

In a recent interview, Blatter said a diplomatic arrangement had been reached under which Russia would get the 2018 World Cup and the United States 2022, until Platini changed his mind and opted to back Qatar.

That has just increased confusion, with England's Football Association saying it reserves the right to demand compensation if the 2018 vote was decided in advance.

Football's world body is also still reeling from US charges against 14 football officials and marketing executives over more than $150 million in bribes allegedly paid for marketing and TV deals.

Blatter is under investigation by Swiss investigators for a two million dollar payment to Platini.

It has already been decided that future World Cup hosts will be chosen by all 209 FIFA members, not just the all-powerful executive.

But reforms are too limited, according to top sponsors who want outside figures brought in to lead the process.

"If we are not satisfied in that regard we will reassess our sponsorship," Visa vice-chairman Ellen Richey told the British lawmakers in October.

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