The FIFA ethics investigator and judge who have been effectively been dismissed by football’s world governing body have described this as detrimental to the organization. The decision is to be made official on Thursday.
The outgoing FIFA ethics investigator, Cornel Borbely and the ethics judge, Hans-Joachim Eckert expressed their concerns at a hastily organized press conference in Manama, where the FIFA Congress is to convene on Thursday.
Borbely told reporters that his removal together with Eckert’s effective dismissal, amounted to the “end of the reform process,” which had started with the election ofFIFA President Gianni Infantinoat a Congress in Zurich in February 2016, where a package of new regulations was also passed, aimed at making football’s governing body more transparent.
“As it seems now, the work of the ethics committee was inconvenient for functionaries, for FIFA officials. “The removal of the ethics committee is not in FIFA’s best interests… and it’s a setback for the fight against corruption,” Borbely said.
Unclear where investigations will continue
The Swiss lawyer also said that the move came as the “several hundred” investigations into alleged corruption were ongoing and that it was not clear whether these would continue to be pursued following their removal.
He added that there would be no transition to a new ethics leadership team, and that apart from him and Eckert, the personnel in both chambers would be new, with “the most experienced prosecutors and judges gone.”
He also predicted that “it won’t get any easier for FIFA” as the personnel changes will also be followed closely by the investigating authorities in the US and Switzerland.
Critics of the FIFA president have said that they believe Infantino could have a personal motive to replace the prosecutor and the judge after they launched an investigation into possible offences related to flights he had taken on private jets, as well as his hiring practices. Last August, FIFA’s Ethics Committee cleared the president of any wrongdoing.
‘Not a great day for soccer’
Eckert, a German judge, is the man who opened proceedings against former longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter and former UEFA President Michel Platini in November 2015, which eventually led to both of them being replaced.
“It’s not a great day for FIFA” Eckert said. “The loser is soccer, because trying to get a good, honest FIFA now it’s very difficult. The loser is soccer, not me.”
Both men said they had not been officially notified about their removal and only found out via their “mobile phones” when they landed in Bahrain on Tuesday evening.
“I would like to have an explanation,” Eckert said.
The two men were speaking a day after the news broke that the powerful FIFA Council had recommended that the FIFA Council not re-elect Borbely and Eckert to their posts. Both of their four-year terms are set to expire. Instead, it recommended that Eckert be replaced by Vassilios Skouris of Greece and Borbely’s post be given to Colombian prosecutor Maria Claudia Rojas. Skouris is a former president of the European Court of Justice.