David Owen

Much has been made of the appointment of a veteran of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Salt Lake City crisis to chair the new body charged with drafting a package of reform proposals far-reaching enough to salvage FIFA’s battered reputation.

François Carrard was at the heart of the IOC’s largely successful response to one of the biggest threats in its more than century-long existence, the logic seems to be, therefore he is the best man to plot a path to a similarly happy ending for FIFA.

And just to be on the safe side, the "2016 FIFA Reform Committee" has been populated with two other senior IOC figures, one of whom - Australia’s Kevan Gosper - was every bit as much a key architect of the Olympic body’s fight-back as Carrard.

We might wish it were otherwise, but I am not sure the world is as neat and tidy as implied by this equation.

This is not to belittle either Carrard’s stature or his experience.

The Swiss lawyer witnessed a lot besides Salt Lake City during his 14 years as IOC director general.

It was he who woke up former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch in his hotel suite at 1.30am on July 27 1996, after a bomb had exploded in the then Olympic city of Atlanta.

He also played a key role in the early days of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Of Carrard’s contribution at a 2003 conference to pave the way for adoption of a World Anti-Doping Code, Richard Pound, the Canadian IOC member who was the first WADA President, wrote: "There is no one in the world I would rather have had at my side in order to maximise our chances for success."

Former IOC director-general François Carrard was appointed head of the FIFA reform taskforce earlier this week
Former International Olympic Committee director-general François Carrard was appointed head of the FIFA Reform Committee last week ©Getty Images

But while they are the two most powerful sports governing bodies, the IOC and FIFA are by no means equivalent organisations.

And there is one fundamental reason why, in my view, it is easier for the IOC to ensure tolerably high ethical standards than FIFA.

The IOC has complete control over who becomes, and who remains, a member.

There is no one-member-per-country stipulation, or anything like it.

If there is no-one from the Republic of X who commands sufficient respect to be made a member, the IOC will simply look elsewhere.

International sports federations such as FIFA have no such luxury.

Once the Republic of X’s Football Association is in the club, then it is in the club.

And I am not at all sure that the much-ballyhooed enhanced integrity checks will help: if the President of the Republic of X’s FA blots his copybook, then who will he be replaced with?

More than likely a subordinate over whom the banned President would appear ideally placed to exert much influence.

IOC members enter the club with a sense of privilege; FIFA members with one of entitlement.

Kevan Gosper, the former vice-president of the IOC, has also been appointed to the FIFA Reform Committee
Kevan Gosper, the former vice-president of the IOC, has also been appointed to the FIFA Reform Committee ©Getty Images

This distinction is worth underlining because for all the 50-odd reform proposals drawn up by the massive 80-strong IOC 2000 Commission, much the most important factor in enabling the IOC to turn its reputation back around, in my view, has been the realisation by the membership - even those whose personal honour code might not automatically require impeccable ethical behaviour - that, with enforcement inevitably much stronger and audit trails more meticulous, they would be plain daft to risk ejection from a unique and worthwhile club for the sake of some favour or trinket.

As the IOC’s Pound wrote: "The Salt Lake City crisis had not been the result of a structural problem within the IOC…It was governance - or, more accurately, lack of governance - that created the problem."

If those inside an organisation - particularly a globe-spanning body that meets comparatively rarely - are not committed to upholding high personal standards, the most perfect organisational structure in the world will struggle to impose them.

The IOC’s reaction to the eruption of the crisis in late 1998 tends to illustrate the shortcomings of thinking that structural change can legislate a cure for a problem.

Gosper, an IOC Executive Board member at the time, has written that the IOC leadership had been debating changing its host-city selection process, including cutting the number of individuals with the power to vote, well before the scandal broke.

"Our biggest concern," Gosper said, "was the increasing talk of agents reputedly asking for financial incentives from some candidate cities, claiming to be able to deliver votes".

Samaranch, he went on, "would have preferred the host city selection be made by the Executive Board, as it was in other sports such as football, where the executive of the world football body, FIFA, makes the decision on where the World Cup will be held".

Football's scandal-hit world governing body FIFA is aiming to restore its reputation
Football's scandal-hit world governing body FIFA is aiming to restore its reputation ©Getty Images

The then IOC President, in other words, would have reacted to Salt Lake by adopting the system that was to land FIFA in hot water a few years later.

FIFA, in turn, has reacted to that setback by moving to a more IOC-like model, with all National Associations having a vote on a final shortlist of up to three bidders in future World Cup contests.

Carrard’s announcement that he will establish "an independent advisory board, made up of representatives from outside football, to support the work of the committee and provide an additional layer of independent expertise" makes me wonder if he doesn't have an entity such as the IOC 2000 Commission in mind.

This Commission, as former IOC marketing director Michael Payne has explained, was "deliberately set up as a large group, to include all of the different stakeholders from within the Olympic Movement".

Leading figures from the worlds of politics (Henry Kissinger), business (Giovanni Agnelli), sports equipment (Masato Mizuno) and broadcasting (Dick Ebersol) were all admitted.

That might help to counter the reservations that some have already expressed regarding the composition of the FIFA Reform Committee itself.

Ultimately, though, it is likely to be the attitude and comportment of those who call the shots in international football, rather than any organisational masterstrokes devised by Carrard and his committee, that will determine whether FIFA’s reputation can rebound anything like as successfully as the IOC’s.