Thu, Jun 23, 2011 - Page 20 News List

FIFA must clean image: panel member

AP, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

One of the men who decided to suspend leading FIFA executives Jack Warner and Mohamed bin Hammam says while soccer’s world governing body has been badly tainted, the game will overcome bribery and corruption issues.

Veteran Australian soccer broadcaster Les Murray, one of the 13 members of FIFA’s independent Ethics Committee, said yesterday that FIFA is still badly in need of reform to rebuild its integrity.

Warner resigned as FIFA vice president, president of CONCACAF and all soccer duties on Monday, maintaining what was described as the “presumption of innocence” by ensuring the sport’s governing body closed its investigation into his part in alleged bribing of Caribbean Football Union leaders in his native Trinidad last month during bin Hammam’s campaign to unseat Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.

Bin Hammam and two Caribbean Football Union employees, meanwhile, remain provisionally barred from all soccer-related duty while facing accusations of paying bribes to up to 25 Caribbean voters during the campaign. All have denied any wrongdoing.

There have since been calls for bin Hammam to follow Warner’s lead and step down for the good of the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA. Murray said he was unable to comment on bin Hammam or Warner because of his role on the ethics committee.

While bribery and corruption charges are yet to be proven, Murray said FIFA had suffered considerable damage through implication.

“We don’t know anything until we have evidence, but the perception is very, very bad,” he said. “When four people from the FIFA executive committee in the last seven months have been either banned or suspended — and one of them has resigned — from all football activities, it’s not a good look.”

Murray said it was obvious FIFA needed to act quickly to reverse that perception.

“There are 24 men on that [executive] committee and four of them have been implicated ... FIFA has some serious work to do to clean up its image,” he said.

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