FIFA starting reform meeting today

Zurich, December 1

FIFA's much-abused leadership on Wednesday is starting a key meeting on reform on the fifth anniversary of one of the most controversial actions ever taken by football's world body.

The December 2, 2010 votes to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar set off a storm of corruption allegations that have still not been cleared up. In the five years since, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been suspended and is under criminal investigation in Switzerland. Michel Platini, once hot favourite to take over, is also suspended and faces a life ban.

Sport's most powerful federation is in chaos. Only seven of the 24-member executive from the ill-fated 2010 vote remain on the team that will start to discuss proposals for change in Zurich on Wednesday and Thursday.

Many of the others, including Platini, are suspended, banned, under arrest or, like German legend Franz Beckenbauer, under investigation. The executive is to discuss reforms such as age and term limits for FIFA presidents, how to vet the powerful continental confederation chiefs on the executive and make the world body more transparent. A special FIFA congress on February 26 will choose a new president as well as vote on reforms drawn up by Francois Carrard, former director general of International Olympic Committee.

Many critics say that the world governing body has not learned enough of the lessons from the 2010 vote that still reverberates. Qatar came from nowhere to win the 2022 World Cup after four rounds of voting — eliminating Australia, Japan and finally the United States. Russia beat England, Netherlands-Belgium and Spain-Portugal.

Protests came from far-and-wide. Even the United States of America President Barack Obama questioned the election. Blatter at the time welcomed the move of the World Cup into new territories. But FIFA has paid dearly for the votes financially and in terms of its reputation.