FIFA has hit back at reports claiming its president Gianni Infantino worked to weaken the code of ethics, accusing the media of trying to undermine the governing body’s leadership.
German publication Der Spiegel alleged Infantino was in August personally involved in amendments to the FIFA regulations, based on documents it claims to have attained from whistleblowers ‘Football Leaks’. Infantino did not address the accusations directly in a statement issued on Friday.
FIFA was criticised for removing the word “corruption” from its code of ethics, while also introducing a statute of limitation and defamation clause.
The defence for replacing “bribery and corruption” with just “bribery” in Article 27 was for “reasons of language clarity in the English, Spanish and German versions”.
FIFA says the accusations are an attempt to damage its reputation and undermine the current leadership, with the governing body and its president insisting they continue to do all they can to fight corruption.
Infantino said in a FIFA statement: “It is always a challenge to change things, to move forward, and to bring people together in order to do things better.
“And, as we are resolutely implementing the reforms at FIFA, it was always clear to me that I would face strong opposition, especially from those who cannot anymore shamelessly profit from the system they were part of.
“But this is why I was elected and for me there will be one focus and one focus only: to improve and develop football, worldwide. And today I am more committed and decided than ever to continue fulfilling this task.”
The rest of the FIFA release read: “Four weeks ago, a group of journalists sent several hundred questions to FIFA, based on private and internal e-mails and other information which had been accessed [illegally] by third parties.
“Despite the fact that we answered the questions posed to us in a straight-forward and honest manner, certain media decided to ignore most of our answers and to distort both the facts and the truth in a deliberate attempt to discredit FIFA and to mislead their readers. This is evident.
“It seems obvious from the ‘reporting’ carried out in some media outlets that there is only one particular aim: an attempt to undermine the new leadership of FIFA and, in particular, the president, Gianni Infantino, and the secretary general, Fatma Samoura.
“Since the new leadership of FIFA took office there have been changes. There had to be and we are very proud of them. As is widely known, FIFA was in a desperate situation in 2015, as it sought to recover from decades of neglect and mismanagement.
“It is a fact that many former FIFA officials are currently facing criminal proceedings in Switzerland and abroad. And, of course, many other FIFA officials who were part of, or supported, this discredited regime for many years are also no longer at FIFA.
Consequently, it is more than obvious that changes had to be made at all levels, in order to give FIFA a fresh start.
“It comes as no surprise that some of those who have been removed, replaced, or who are unhappy, continue to spread false rumours and innuendo about the new leadership. We are aware that there are people who, out of frustration, would like to undermine FIFA, for their own self-interested reasons.
“It is, therefore, also a cause for regret that some media outlets occasionally lend support to such false claims, apparently without giving any thought or consideration to the very real and substantive changes that have been made at FIFA, since the old regime was swept away, under a cloud of shame.
“FIFA welcomes honest and thoughtful investigative reporting and fully respects objective journalists. We do not always expect that they will share our views or opinions, however, all we ask for is a fair and truthful account of the work which we are doing, and which we will continue to do, for football.
“We will happily engage with all media who would like to gain a clearer understanding of our work, of the changes which we have made, and who would like to contribute to the success of the organisation going forward.
“Most likely, this will not entail putting a one-side ‘spin’ on things, and attempting to blacken the character of those who are working hard to improve the situation of world football.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it also deserves to be pointed out that NONE of the ‘reports’ contains anything which would even remotely amount to a violation of any law, statute or regulation. This is, beyond question, an immeasurable improvement on the past and something which FIFA is fully committed to going forward.
“We will not be distracted from our work as FIFA is unarguably in a far better position than it was two years ago. We welcome any constructive debate. And we will continue to move forward, stronger and more committed than ever.”
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