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Corruption? What corruption? FIFA deletes any mention from new code of ethics

Kylian Mbappe scores France’s fourth goal past Croatia’s Danijel Subasic in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final in Moscow in July. (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Despite years of impropriety, FIFA — soccer’s international governing body — has eliminated the term “corruption” from its code of ethics.

World soccer officials have long been accused of taking bribes, diverting funds and match-fixing. The most prominent pair — former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and former vice president Jack Warner — were investigated by the ethics committee before being removed from the organization. Warner was subsequently banned for life and faces extradition to the United States on a variety of criminal charges.

After persistent claims of corruption and mismanagement, the ethics committee removed Blatter from his post in 2015. Warner was suspended by the committee in 2011; about a month later, FIFA announced his resignation from all his posts within the organization.

That same committee has now watered down punishments for malfeasance.

The previous edition of the code of ethics, adopted in 2012, referred to “bribery and corruption” and noted that while other offenses face a 10-year statute of limitations, “Prosecution for bribery and corruption is not subject to such a limitation period.”

But the 2018 edition identifies specifically “betting, gambling or similar activities” and “bribery, misappropriation of funds and match manipulation.”

FIFA vowed a corruption crackdown after the Department of Justice indicted more than a dozen world soccer officials — including Warner — in 2015 on charges that included wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering.

But malfeasance persists in the organization. In May, FIFA banned the former Salvadoran national team coach for life for attempting to talk his club into throwing a 2016 match against Canada. It banned the former general secretary of the Guatemalan Football Association for life for awarding media rights contracts to certain companies in exchange for personal kickbacks.

The new code of ethics seems to walk back steps taken in that crackdown. The changes may seem semantic, but wholesale alterations appear in how such offenses are punished. Now, the 10-year statute of limitations applies to these violations as well.

And under a new rule, “defamation,” violators can be banned from the sport for up to five years.

“Persons bound by this Code are forbidden from making any public statements of a defamatory nature towards FIFA and/or towards any other person bound by this Code in the context of FIFA events,” according to article 22.2.

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