Even after a year under new leadership, FIFA is still pleading with the world: Trust us.
The message is proving as hard to sell as sponsorship of the World Cup.
Especially when FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been accused of ousting the ethics leadership whose mission was to clean up soccer’s scandal-tainted image.
German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert and Swiss prosecutor Cornel Borbely decried a “clearly politically motivated” decision by the Infantino-led council on Tuesday to prevent them remaining in their jobs.
“This will inevitably lead to a renewed loss of trust,” Eckert and Borbely said in a statement after discovering they were being replaced, “and further hurt the already tarnished image of FIFA.”
So much for the “new era” Infantino said he was ushering in after succeeding the discredited, banned president Sepp Blatter last year.
Eckert, who brought down Blatter in 2015, and Borbely said the new leadership has “accepted jeopardizing FIFA’s integrity, and, hence, the future of the game.”
The pair is clearly disgruntled at losing their jobs as watchdogs of world soccer, and FIFA is yet to respond to their damning critique.
But the outbursts from respected figures make Infantino’s “crisis is over” declaration at last year’s gathering of soccer’s 211 nations looking remarkably outlandish.
Criminal investigations are still exposing shady transactions. The suitability of members of the ruling council remains in doubt. Reforms intended to curb the powers of the president and restore FIFA’s credibility are being eroded.
Against this backdrop, FIFA has been trying to persuade commercial backers to sign up after so many were scared off by the corruption that plagued the Blatter’s 17-year reign.
FIFA’s leadership was able to start its congress week in Bahrain by trumpeting the arrival of Qatar Airways to fill the airline sponsorship category that has been vacant for more than two years. But the deal was anticipated given…