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FIFA audit chair calls for huge governance overhaul

THE corruption scandals that have beset football’s governing body FIFA were caused by key officials retaining their positions for far too long, according to the organisation’s head of audit and compliance.

Audit chief Domenico Scala announced an eight-part reform programmeincluding a limiting the tenure of the president and the executive committee to three terms of four years.

Sepp Blatter (pictured), president of FIFA since 1998, announced he would step down in February next year amid allegations of institutional corruption, which led to the arrest by the FBI and Swiss authorities of 14 officials on charges of wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.

Blatter was in power for a total of four terms and was elected for a fifth before resigning.

Senior vice-president and executive committee member Issa Hayatou has been in place for 25 years with Spain’s Angel Maria Villar Llona also an executive committee member for 17 years.

Alongside term limits, Scala put forward plans for improved integrity checks for executive committee members and those in key FIFA bodies; direct election for executive committee members by congress; individual disclosure of remunerations, income and compensation for key FIFA figures, improved independence of standing committees, avoiding conflicts of interest; improved levels of governance at confederations and member associations; revised World Cup bidding proposals; improvements with regard to structure and decision-making.

Scala warned that unless FIFA adopts his proposals, public opinion will not change and the body’s already-sullied reputation could be damaged irreparably.

He said: “We need reforms now, we can’t wait. FIFA works very well operationally and has not come to a halt. But this is a watershed in terms of role and perception going forward.”

Elsewhere in football, research from top ten firm BDO found the majority of professional football clubs in England and Scotland leave players to handle their own tax affairs, potentially allowing footballers to fall foul of tax avoidance schemes.

The report – The Annual Survey of Football Club Finance Directors 2015 – states that when it comes to HMRC’s targeting of individuals using so-called ‘aggressive’ tax avoidance schemes, the majority (85%) of finance directors believe that this is not an issue for the club.

However 12% of clubs do concede it is a concern, with scrutiny from the taxman being cause for player distraction on the pitch.

Richard Morley, partner in the tax dispute resolution team at BDO said: “Footballers are clearly targeted by promoters of tax avoidance schemes due to their huge salaries with most players sold these schemes in the belief they are a genuine and legitimate way of reducing their tax demands. However, with HMRC’s ongoing crackdown around tax avoidance, many players that invested in these schemes are now in serious financial difficulty.”

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