Chair of FIFA reform commission: Real change more likely this time because of legal pressures

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NEW YORK — The chairman of the FIFA reform commission says he believes soccer's leaders are more likely to make real changes this time because of pressure caused by the governing body's legal troubles.

Reforms promised four years ago during a previous corruption crisis fell short of expectations. But as Francois Carrard noted Tuesday: "In 2011, you didn't have your breakfast ruined by the police."

In May, Swiss authorities raided a luxury FIFA hotel in Zurich after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 people on corruption charges. Carrard was picked by FIFA in August to lead the reform commission. He helped oversee cleaning up the International Olympic Committee as its director general after the Salt Lake City bidding scandal.

Carrard said after speaking at the Securing Sport conference in Manhattan on Tuesday that he expected to meet with all the FIFA presidential candidates.

The reform commission announced several proposals last month, including a 12-year term limit for the FIFA president and an age limit of 74 for the president and executives. Carrard said the group's members were still discussing how the term would be broken up and whether to institute term limits for executives.

The concern is about smaller countries where a precocious leader could become a FIFA executive at a young age.

"After 12 years, he has to go out and you maybe have nobody behind. It's stupid," Carrard said. "In another situation, in a bigger country, it's easier. We are still trying to find and refine the solution."

Carrard said he expects final decisions on these topics to be made in the next two weeks. Any changes would need to be approved by all 209 FIFA members at the Feb. 26 congress in Zurich.

One of the seven men in the running to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA president, Tokyo Sexwale, spoke earlier at Tuesday's conference. The South African mining tycoon is FIFA's liaison between the Israeli and Palestinian soccer bodies. Sexwale was an apartheid-era activist imprisoned with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island.

He didn't offer specifics Tuesday about his presidential bid but argued that FIFA needed leadership from a broader part of the world.

"Football is not about the green pitch; it's actually the brown pitch," Sexwale said.

"It's time to give space to people who can show ability and strength in other regions of the world," he added.

The Securing Sport conference is held by the non-profit International Centre for Sport Security, which receives 70 percent of its funding from the government of Qatar. FIFA's own ethics investigation has cleared the World Cup bids by 2018 host Russia and 2022 host Qatar, which have been tainted by years of allegations. The bidding processes remain subject to a criminal investigation in Switzerland.

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