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Feb 8, 2013

Sepp Blatter urged to show leadership

GENEVA -- FIFA's anti-corruption advisers urged president Sepp Blatter's executive committee on Friday to "demonstrate leadership" and resist attempts to dilute reforms of soccer's world governing body.

The advisory panel published a slate of "fundamental" modernizing steps ahead of key meetings in coming weeks that will shape what FIFA's 209 members can vote for at their congress on May 31.

However, the nine-page document identifies the leaders of European governing body UEFA as a barrier to progress.

"I am just stunned by the pushback we are getting for issues that should be no-brainers," panel member Michael Hershman, an international expert on governance, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Hershman said he shared the concerns of panel chairman Mark Pieth, who told the AP this week that UEFA power brokers Michel Platini and Angel Maria Villar seemed to prioritize their ambitions in future FIFA and UEFA presidential elections over genuine reform.

"Like Mark, I am a little upset at this point," said Hershman, a lawyer who served on the U.S. investigation into the Watergate scandal. "Once you get politics into the reform process, you can't succeed with reform."

The panel wants to "safeguard proper decision-making" at FIFA by allowing two independent outsiders to attend all committee meetings, including the 25-member ruling board. Those members who win elections at continental level should also have their positions approved by the full FIFA congress, it is suggested.

The panel proposes term limits for the FIFA president and board members, and suggests members of all FIFA committees should be vetted for integrity by an independent group at its Zurich headquarters.

Public disclosure of "compensation and benefits" paid to FIFA officials, including Blatter's salary, is also required to improve transparency, the document proposed.

The panel, which was invited by Blatter in 2011 to advise FIFA after a series of financial and vote-buying allegations, used its latest report to stress points which were not addressed after its first submission last March.

Two weeks ago, UEFA published its feedback to FIFA's global consultation and rejected some of the Pieth panel's key demands.

UEFA said its 53 nations wanted to give the FIFA president 12 years in office instead of eight, and allow FIFA board members unlimited four-year mandates while avoiding any vetting checks by the world body.

Platini's group said each continental body should scrutinize its own people -- a move Hershman suggested could be designed to win favor in other confederations whose members have been implicated in ethical wrongdoing.

"If it is being done for political maneuvering reasons, maneuvering for more votes, then whoever is responsible should be ashamed of themselves," Hershman said. "It's telling me that we're not anywhere close to achieving the change in culture that is going to be needed going forward."

The panel's document will be studied in Zurich at a meeting on Feb. 26 that includes chief executives of the six confederations.

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