Who is fit to clean football’s Augean stables?

As the search goes on to find a leadership candidate for world football who isn’t completely compromised before they start, our good friends at Transparency International have produced a report that begs the question: is there a single football association fit to lead international reform?

TI have assessed each of the world’s national football associations and regional bodies against the most basic transparency criteria imaginable. Specifically, do they publish:

  1. financial reports;
  2. an organisational charter;
  3. annual activity reports; and
  4. a code of ethics?

Even with The Offshore Game’s floor-brushingly low level of expectations - and recognising that meeting these four criteria is no guarantee of anything - the results are disappointing.


First, the regional bodies - and remember, these are effectively vying to provide the next head of FIFA…

Not a single regional body scores 4 out of 4 for basic transparency. Only CAF and UEFA even bother to publish financial reports - and remember that tens of millions of dollars (at least) wash through these organisations.

What of national organisations? Arguably they perform even more poorly.

Only 14 out of the 209 national bodies meet all four basic criteria: Canada, Denmark, England, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, the Republic of Ireland and Sweden.

Only 41 publish financial reports - that’s less than one in five. Now think about all the corrupt entities over the course of history that have actually managed to publish financial reports - Enron? Madoff? Even Al Capone had accounts. Imagine then, the scope for corruption in football.


What can we take from this? Two things, at least.

First, football’s governing bodies, in every region of the world, are organisations with (a) large amounts of cash kicking about, and (b) minimal observable commitment to transparency, financial or otherwise. The only surprise about rampant corruption in the sport is that anybody was ever surprised.

Second, it goes far beyond Einstein’s definition of lunacy to expect the national or regional football associations to lead any kind of effective change process at FIFA or anywhere else. Anyone who has imbibed of this world and accepted the way things are, has shown themselves to be at best indifferent towards transparency and accountability.

While we’d like to see TI’s recommendations (below) become reality, it’s increasingly hard to take seriously the idea that these opaque, unaccountable bodies could be agents of progress.

Instead, it feels like time for serious financial transparency to be imposed externally, as a legal requirement. Unless, just perhaps, one or two FAs have sufficient vision that they will voluntarily submit themselves to the kind of scrutiny needed, and make the far-reaching changes needed to set off on a quite different course…

Hey, UK! You always claim to be the home of football. Which are you: the home of the game of Blatter, Blazer and all; or the home of the beautiful game, of and accountable to the fans? If it’s the latter, now’s the time to scrub the Augean stables - and to stop pretending that cows don’t shit.

Image courtesy of Kevin Trotman.

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