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Mussenden steps up presidency bid

Prince Ali-Al Hussein of Jordan, a candidate for the Fifa presidency, answers questions at the Concacaf extraordinary congress in Zurich (Photograph by Patrick B Kraemer/Keystone/AP)

Away from the glare of the world’s media there is another presidential campaign taking place in Zurich this week.

While Sepp Blatter’s reign as the head of Fifa will finally come to an end this morning when his successor is elected at the extraordinary congress, several Concacaf officials are jostling for position in the race for their own confederation’s top job.

The starting gun will not be officially fired until the end of March when the nomination period ends, but that has not stopped Larry Mussenden, the Bermuda Football Association president, and Victor Montagliani, the Canadian Soccer Association president, from approaching potential supporters.

Mussenden said he touched base with several member nations yesterday and received “consistent positive feedback about my bid.”

Montagliani, who is considered to be Mussenden’s main rival for the Concacaf presidency, has a more public profile this week as a member of the Fifa reform advisory group. Among Montagliani’s suggestions are the removal of 17 Fifa committees, which he called “a waste of time.”

One candidate for the Fifa presidency, Sheikh Salman al Khalifa of Bahrain, used the carrot of those committees to try and win votes in his final pitch to Concacaf yesterday. He promised officials from 35 voting federations he would find ways to avoid cutting the number of committee places each has to attend expenses-paid meetings in Zurich.

The pledge to maintain voters’ privileges and help educate them in football leadership seemed to endorse the kind of patronage Fifa was criticized for during Blatter’s presidency.

Montagliani said “a lot” of FIFA committees “were under the masquerade of participation and giving people experience.”

If Concacaf have their way the proposed reforms to Fifa will be passed in full. The governing body has agreed to vote as a block for the changes, as they did unanimously yesterday for their own reforms, which both Mussenden and Montagliani were heavily involved in producing.

What they will not be doing is voting the same way at the presidential elections. The United States have backed Prince Ali-Al Hussein of Jordan, while the South America confederation has thrown its support behind Gianni Infantino.

As is its normal approach, the Bermuda Football Association, which is represented in Zurich this week by Mussenden, David Sabir, the general secretary, Mark Wade, the vice-president, and Shannon Burgess, is revealing who it will support.

Rocked by the Fifa fraud scandal that swept up three Concacaf presidents, Jeffrey Webb, Jack Warner and Alfred Hawit, the governing body of the Americas region has been determined to introduce a structure that will prevent the mistakes of the past being repeated.

With that in mind the raft of reforms that Concacaf passed at their own extraordinary congress included removing the governing body’s executive committee and introducing term limits to the newly-created Concacaf Council.

Member nations also agreed to the introduction of integrity checks for presidential candidates and the creation of independent committees to oversee the confederation’s finances and governance.

“It has been an exciting day,” Mussenden said. “We have come a long way since last May, and even further since 2012. We have shown the world that we can reform, that we can change and we are starting to restore our credibility in the eyes of the world.”

The reforms will largely take effect in 60 days’ time, although changes to the statutes governing the election of the next Concacaf president will have a more immediate impact.

As well as facing an independent ethics committee which will be tasked with performing eligibility checks on perspective candidates, nominees will need the backing of four member nations in order to run. One of the four must be their own association.

“The reforms passed today go further than ever before to incorporate essential principles of good governance and compliance into Concacaf’s statutes,” Concacaf said in a statement. “However, it is only the beginning of the equally important process of changing the culture of how football is governed and administered by implementing these reforms in a meaningful and sustainable way.

“Concacaf will pursue implementation and enforcement of the reforms with the same determination that led to this important day for football in the region.”

Concacaf reforms

Governance: Sixty days after the extraordinary congress, the Concacaf Executive Committee will be transformed into the Concacaf Council. The Concacaf Council, led by Concacaf’s president, will assume responsibility for setting and achieving the confederation’s strategic objectives and for football-related decision making. The general secretariat will manage the day-to-day business operations of the confederation with strategic direction and oversight from the council and independent committees.

Independence: Independent committees will be created to oversee compensation, governance, audit and compliance, and finance. The audit and compliance committee will be comprised entirely of independent members. The compensation, governance, and finance committees will be chaired by and comprised of a majority of independent members. Additionally, the Concacaf Council will include up to three independent, non-voting members, who will be elected by Concacaf’s member associations at the congress on May 12.

Ethics: All candidates for the Concacaf Council, Concacaf president, standing committee members, members of judicial bodies, and senior confederation officials will undergo eligibility checks to be conducted by the independent ethics committee. Until the independent ethics committee is formed, the Concacaf Council will engage a third-party vendor to conduct the eligibility checks.

Term Limits: Term limits of 12 years, consecutive or non-consecutive, will be applied to Concacaf Council members and members of independent committees. Should existing members of the executive committee be elected to the Concacaf Council, they may complete their current term plus one additional term so long as the member is in the last two years of his or her current term.

Transparency: The Concacaf Congress will have the authority to review and approve on an annual basis, upon the recommendation of the compensation committee, the remuneration and other compensation of Concacaf Council members, Concacaf representatives before Fifa, the chairpersons of the audit and compliance committee, finance committee, compensation committee and the governance committee, and senior officials including the general secretary, chief financial officer, and chief legal and compliance officer.

Accountability: Concacaf has the right to audit any member association or union receiving Concacaf funds for a specific purpose to ensure that such funds are being used for said purpose.