European Football - FIFA reformer perplexed by European opposition

FIFA reformer Mark Pieth is perplexed by European opposition to a key part of his plan for wiping out corruption.

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He suggested that if reforms were not forthcoming at FIFA's annual Congress in Mauritius in May, the Swiss government could hit FIFA where it hurts by making the organisation pay tax.

Pieth, who heads FIFA's independent governance committee, cannot understand why European football associations unanimously opposed centralised integrity checks for senior elected FIFA officials, including executive committee members.

Instead, UEFA has suggested that integrity checks be carried out locally "if needed".

"It's kind of tragic that the European associations have closed ranks and made a long list of points they don't like," he told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on integrity, sports and business.

"They want to do their own integrity checks but if everybody in the world does their integrity checks themselves, I don't think we're going much further than where we are.

"I don't know why the Europeans find it difficult to accept. Why do the presidents of the German and Swiss associations find it difficult to accept an outside integrity test?

"The strange thing is, we are not facing resistance from the people who have been hit (by corruption) in the past such as the Caribbean. They are backing reform."

Pieth said he believed the European attitude stemmed for a basic opposition to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

"What I've been picking up by speaking to heads of associations in Europe when I ask why they are saying no to their first chance in decades to change something...the reply is that it's about this president, they don't like him," he said.

"I tell them that in a few years, I don't know how many, they will have a new president in any case...It's not about people, it's about structure."

Asked why the Europeans had opposed the proposals en bloc, he said: "We're talking about sport and sport was originally about men and bonding and being tough together and cowards alone."

Pieth added that the ultimate punishment could be handed out by the Swiss government by ending tax exemption for the international sports organisations based in the country.

"This is plan B for Switzerland," he said. "We have between 40 and 60 associations. Switzerland as a country has to ask the question, 'will FIFA reform itself?'

"If it doesn't, there is a brutal way: tax. They are all tax exempt, but the government could say it has to understand the finances and if there is no governance, no tax exemption.

"Maybe some of those associations will leave Switzerland, this is a risk we have to accept if we to take ethics seriously. Let them go to Qatar or other countries."

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