LAUSANNE: A former top FIFA official who left after criticising its president Sepp Blatter has warned that big sponsors will start leaving world football’s governing body unless major reforms are undertaken.
Michel Zen-Ruffinen, who succeeded Blatter as FIFA secretary general from 1998 until 2002 when the latter was elected president, said he would be interested in returning to the body if “order” is restored to the scandal-tainted body.
Zen-Ruffinen, a critic of Blatter’s leadership style left FIFA in 2002 after producing a report which accused the president of mismanaging FIFA’s finances.
Blatter said last month he would stand down as FIFA was left reeling by two separate corruption investigations.
“I do not exclude returning, but I would have to know who would be running the organisation and if he has the will to put things in order,” Zen-Ruffinen told AFP in an interview.
“There will have to be a break with the past. FIFA will be forced to make certain basic reforms or it will lose big sponsors,” added the 56-year-old.
Asked whether he would be ready to serve under Michel Platini, the current head of UEFA, Zen-Ruffinen said “why not.”
Zen-Ruffinen, a qualified lawyer who spent 16 years in various positions at FIFA, said the world body’s legal status has to be changed.
“First, I would change the legal status from an association and this would need a lot of thought.”
Zen-Ruffinen suggested a remodeled FIFA should take its lead from a Swiss business example.
“You need a structure under which the people who run businesses are subject to stricter controls like those for the top executives of Swiss companies which are very severe,” said Zen-Ruffinen.
“In sporting organisations, the leaders do as they want.”
Zen-Ruffinen said that FIFA’s 209 members should keep the principle of one country one vote but introduce two assemblies for decision making.
“For certain decisions this would give more power to the bigger federations.”
The European confederation, UEFA, the wealthiest in the world, currently has proportionately more seats on the FIFA executive committee than the other five confederations for Africa, Asia, Oceania, South America and North and Central America.
Zen-Ruffinen said a committee of independent experts from outside FIFA “and with nothing to gain financially” should lead deliberations on the new structure.
He said FIFA could follow the example of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which after a corruption scandal involving the awarding of the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City, brought in an international group of lawyers, politicians and constitutional experts to reshape the body and restore its image.