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May 29, 2013

Sepp Blatter's salary a secret

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius -- FIFA President Sepp Blatter's salary remained undisclosed Wednesday while the world soccer body backed its reform process and insisted it was more financially transparent.

A day after FIFA said a debate over restricting the age and number of terms of officials would be put off until at least next year, the earnings of its leaders were also off limits.

Domenico Scala, a Swiss industrialist brought in to be FIFA's top financial watchdog and lead its new audit and compliance committee, said he knew how much money Blatter made but would not reveal it the day before the congress meets for two days.

"It is not my role to disclose it," Scala said at a beachside hotel on the Indian Ocean island. "The decision to disclose salaries is part of the process we have ... and part of the role of the FIFA executive committee. You will definitely not get the salary from me. You will have to get the salary from him."

Blatter has reportedly referred questions over his earnings and bonuses to Scala, and hinted in the past that it was just over $1 million. It's believed to be much more than that.

Making public earnings of top FIFA officials -- especially the decision-making executive committee -- was one of the recommendations of law professor Mark Pieth's panel after those advisers were brought in by FIFA following recent scandals involving corruption and financial misconduct.

FIFA said "key management personnel" shared $33.5 million in bonuses and perks in 2012, and Pieth's reformers have pushed for more openness.

Scala also described as "horrible" an ethics report from CONCACAF into alleged long-running corruption by U.S. official Chuck Blazer and disgraced former CONCACAF president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago.

"It doesn't say anything positive," he added. "Whatever Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer are saying to me now is worthless because they have obviously over an extended period of time abused the system."

Blazer, a former secretary general of CONCACAF and FIFA's most senior American official for years before he left his position on the executive this month, has been banned 90 days from all soccer activities amid accusations he embezzled at least $21 million. Warner resigned in 2011 after being accused -- by whistle-blower Blazer -- of trying to bribe people to vote for another disgraced official, Mohamed bin Hammam, in that year's leadership contest against Blatter.

Yet with its stories of high-powered corruption, FIFA, which has an annual income of over $1 billion, is still listed as a nonprofit organization, leading critics to insist the earnings and any bonuses of its executive and directors should be made public. Scala, who has been praised for his work in reforming some of FIFA's financial processes in the past year, said reality dictated that FIFA was less comparable to other nonprofits.

"It is an association, I agree, but it has an economic reality," Scala said. "We are talking about billions. You know that."

As well as remuneration transparency, FIFA also hasn't apparently made any progress on calls for independent advisers to be allowed to sit on its executive committee. Limiting the age and number of terms for top officials was effectively dropped from the congress agenda on Tuesday by the executive committee, which said the limits would be debated again in 2014. In comparison, the IOC has age and term limits and its president, Jacques Rogge, doesn't draw a salary.

FIFA and Scala said some of the work since the troubled 2011 congress and World Cup hosting votes should be praised, especially the strengthening of FIFA's own ethics committee. Scala said FIFA needed time to change.

"To be fair to the process, you will not start on Friday and on Monday everything will be fixed," he said. "It's an illusion, it's a dream. It will take two to three years."

As part of his reforming and monitoring of how FIFA's member associations spend their annual $250,000 grants, Scala said seven countries have this week had funds stopped or are being investigated about spending. He would not identify the countries.

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