Two years ago, Alexandra Wrage resigned from FIFA’s Independent Governance Committee in protest of what the anti-corruption expert believed were watered-down efforts to reform the organization.
So, Wrage watched Sepp Blatter’s Tuesday announcement he would step down as FIFA’s president with more than a little skepticism.
“The reason Blatter could be so powerful is that he’s propped up by an entire organization of people that benefit from the status quo,” Wrage said. “Each vote cast for him said, ‘We’re pretty much happy with the way things are even though we’re being vilified internationally.
“If you don’t have the controls and accountability and transparency, that’s kind of the essence of impunity. You’re above the rules and above examination. It’s a road map for this type of scandal. And [Blatter] set the tone.”
Blatter’s surprise resignation is the latest to hit FIFA -- the governing body for soccer worldwide -- in the midst of a burgeoning corruption scandal.
While FIFA’s president since 1998 preached top-to-bottom reform in his hastily called news conference, Wrage doesn’t believe an end to the organization’s troubles is near.
“I don’t think we’re anything like out of the woods,” said Wrage, president and founder of a Maryland-based nonprofit that works to raise anti-bribery standards in companies around the world. “I think there’s the possibility that somebody very much like Blatter, very much like his leadership style could win at the next election.”
While Blatter is a target of the ongoing Justice Department investigation that’s already netted 14 indictments of soccer executives and businessmen, Wrage viewed the resignation as an attempt to salvage a reputation.
“I think the whole drumbeat for change just got unbearably loud,” she said. “He operates in a closed circle of people telling him what he wants to hear. I think the noise broke through that the world was fed up ... I think he was shocked by that.”
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