FIFA backs revamp of corruption investigation body

GRAHAM DUNBAR AP Sports Writer Published:

ZURICH (AP) -- FIFA will change the way it investigates corruption and is prepared to examine any "credible" evidence of past wrongdoing, president Sepp Blatter said Friday.

Hailing a "historic day for FIFA's reform process" after a series of scandals, Blatter said it would revamp its ethics committee to create separate investigating and prosecuting units with new, independent leaders.

Blatter said the proposal presented by FIFA's anti-corruption adviser Mark Pieth got strong backing from his executive committee, some of whom have recently been cleared of corruption allegations by the existing -- and often maligned -- ethics body.

"Unanimously they agreed to this new approach in our, let's say, efforts for more transparency and integrity," Blatter said at a news conference announcing efforts in a promised two-year drive to clean up the world soccer body.

FIFA's reputation has been rocked by claims of bribery and vote-rigging that marred FIFA's presidential election campaign last year and voting in 2010 for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The credibility of Blatter's organization was also harmed when the existing, single-chamber ethics committee failed to gather enough evidence to prosecute some allegations.

"FIFA has ... shown a lack of pro-active and systematic follow-up on allegations," Pieth wrote in a report submitted to FIFA on behalf of his 13-member expert panel advising on transparency and clean government. "In some instances, allegations were insufficiently investigated."

The revamped ethics court could start work immediately after being approved by FIFA's 208 member nations in May.

"The new ethics committee will have the possibility to initiate investigation in case of credible allegations," Blatter said.

Pieth, a former United Nations investigator, recommended in his report that the new ethics body's "procedures and organizational measures will be applicable to past behavior."

One of Pieth's fundamental demands looks likely to be met, with FIFA set to allow outsiders unconnected to Blatter's so-called "football family" to oversee the judicial process.

FIFA said Pieth will choose three candidates to chair each of the investigative and judging chambers, and member countries will vote at the May 25 congress in Budapest, Hungary.

FIFA also will ask its congress to approve an audit and compliance committee exerting tighter financial controls on the world governing body, which shares much of its billion-dollar income with its member federations.

On Friday, FIFA announced it made a profit of $36 million in 2011 and increased its reserves to $1.3 billion.

FIFA also is setting aside $100 million to insure the salaries of all players against injury on official national team duty. FIFA says the policy should take effect on Sept. 1, and will cover all matches played on FIFA international calendar dates.

Blatter said the congress also should choose FIFA's first female member of the executive committee, which is currently a 24-man panel. The member is expected to be voted by acclaim at the 2013 FIFA Congress.