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Apr 29, 2013

FIFA congress to debate age limits

GENEVA -- The annual FIFA congress of member nations next month will debate whether to impose age and term limits on candidates for positions at soccer's governing body.

FIFA published the agenda Monday for the May 31 meeting in Mauritius. FIFA president Sepp Blatter, 77, is midway through his fourth term, which expires in 2015.

Blatter and his executive committee couldn't agree last month on specifics to present to the congress meeting. The worst outcome for Blatter would be approval for a previous proposal by the Union of European Football Associations to set an upper age limit of 72 on future FIFA candidates.(backslash)The congress also will vote on whether to give a four-year term to Lydia Nsekera of Burundi, added last year to FIFA's executive committee on a one-year term as the body expanded to 25 people. The congress has been asked to decide whether to add two other women and expand the executive committee to 27. Additional candidates are Moya Dodd of Australia, Paula Kearns of New Zealand and Sonia Bien-Aime of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Australian soccer officials have proposed abolishing the lower limit of 18 years for eligibility of foreign-born players who live five years continuously in an adopted country. A similar proposal made by the United Arab Emirates was rejected 153-42 at the 2011 congress as a potential route for richer countries to import overseas players with fast-track citizenship.

FIFA will be monitored in Mauritius -- and beyond -- by an independent advisory panel which lost a key member last week. Alexandra Wrage, a Canadian anti-bribery compliance expert, left after citing frustrations that best-practice proposals were "neutered" or ignored by FIFA.

The advisory panel, chaired by Swiss law professor Mark Pieth, has repeatedly been rebuffed by FIFA in requests for independent observers to get access to board meetings, greater financial transparency regarding salaries and commercial tenders, and authorization for an independent group to perform integrity checks on senior soccer officials.

Still, Blatter wrote reforms would "bring FIFA up to the highest standards of good governance."

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