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Ex-FIFA ethics chiefs call for ‘total independence’ of bodies overseeing the association

Two leading officials formerly responsible for ethics at football’s governing body FIFA have made a strong appeal for its supervisory bodies to be “totally independent” of the organisation’s executive.

Hans-Joachim Eckert and Cornel Borbély, who each chaired the two chambers of FIFA’s Ethics Committee until they were replaced in a surprise move, told a closed PACE committee hearing in Paris that their investigative work could only be done properly without internal interference or pressure.

“I believe the FIFA ethics code is now a good one – but if it is to be effective, the choice of who enforces it must be made with absolute transparency,” said Mr Borbély.

Mr Eckert added: “You can have the best possible ethics framework on paper – but success ultimately depends on the quality of the people who are applying it, and their ability to work entirely independently.”

The two men spent several years working on hundreds of cases of alleged bribery or corruption – including the case of former FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Their highly-acclaimed work resulted in around 70 officials being banned from football, but on 17 May 2017 the terms of office of both men were unexpectedly not renewed.

“How can we help ensure that FIFA supervisory bodies will be able to work independently?” asked rapporteur Anne Brasseur (Luxembourg, ALDE), who is preparing a report on good governance in football. “We have a responsibility to ensure that football is not a lawless zone.”

Miguel Poiares Maduro, a former chair of FIFA’s Governance Committee who was also due to attend the hearing, organised by PACE’s Culture Committee, was unable to to travel from the US at the last minute.

The full report by Ms Brasseur, who has spoken with many former and current officials in FIFA and in UEFA, is due to be made public in December and debated by the plenary Assembly in January.