FIFA needs to understand what transparency is before it can achieve it 3

So here we are again, at the end of another week in which FIFA has managed to alienate itself from the public.

The Executive Committee voted yesterday in favour of publishing all 430 pages of Michael Garcia’s report into corruption and, while that purportedly seems to represents a victory for transparency, the released document will presumably be heavily redacted and - subsequently - valueless.

Garcia’s findings will be published, nobody will learn anything from them, and Sepp Blatter will then be free to make a clear run at the 2015 Presidency.

Around and around we go.

As supporters, the allegations of corruption obviously bother all of us.  On a day-to-day level, however, the irritation with FIFA stems from its relentless obfuscation.  Like many others, I have read all the judgements and official communications which have been published over the past few years and yet, still, I have no real sense of FIFA’s shape.

Within this context, transparency has come to refer only to the visibility of wrong-doing.  To be of value, though, FIFA must apply it to their infrastructure.  Regardless of whether bribery or high-level wrong-doing are as rife as is commonly-believed, there is clearly also an issue with the public’s comprehension of the organisation.

While most of us understand the role of the Executive Committee, there are very few who can speak coherently on any other branch of FIFA.  Whether wittingly or not, its response to the various allegations over the years has been to add further layers of bureaucracy and to create new pockets of authority.

The effect is confusion; across the various committees and ad-hoc bodies which are used during self-investigation, there is no clear line of authority.  We don’t really understand which committee answers to which, we don’t know where the power of implementation lies and, as a result, when FIFA does clarify its own legislation it tends to sound as if its inventing rules to hide behind.

The publication of the Garcia report provided a pertinent example of this.  Having appealed against the forty-page summary of his own findings - a sentence which truly belongs in FIFA-land - Garcia’s request for full-publication was rejected on legal grounds.  The report couldn’t be published, supposedly, because it contradicted assurances of anonymity that were given to participants.

Just over a month later, that changed: more of the findings could be published, but only after the Executive Committee had agreed to it and only then in an ‘appropriate manner’.

That may well have been a legally sound process, but it was just another instance in which FIFA appeared to be making up rules as it went along and interpreting its own constitution in a way that suited its purpose.  As such, it further damaged the organisation’s relationship with the public.

Bribery is a problem.  Cheating in World Cup bidding competitions is a problem.  Sepp Blatter, his autonomy, and his preposterous self-regard are all, also, problems.  But the biggest negative is the constant ambiguity that runs throughout FIFA.  If they want to restore the public’s trust - or at least begin to - then they must start to unravel the mess of committees and the web of seemingly conflicting rules and regulations which continue to baffle outsiders.

‘Clarity of process’ should be the objective in Zurich, because that’s the real meaning of transparency. That isn’t achieved by adding more investigatory chambers, through press-conference rhetoric, or through the quasi-devolution of authority, but by properly establishing the parameters of governance.

For Squawka: Why Michael Carrick is the most polarising player in English football.

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