Former White House Sports Negotiator says “US Government Must Lead Broader International Effort to Reform FIFA”

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Robert Housman, a former White House official who helped negotiate efforts to reform the International Olympic Committee and other sports said today that the United States Government must lead a broader international effort to reform FIFA, the international governing body for soccer and the World Cup. Housman, now a partner with Book Hill Partners, also said a special ambassador is needed to run the effort for the U.S.

“We owe it to fans of soccer worldwide, but in particular to our American soccer players, from the kids to the elite athletes, to protect the beautiful game. The United States government needs to captain that effort.”

Robert Housman, a former White House official who helped negotiate efforts to reform the International Olympic Committee and other sports said today that the United States Government must lead a broader international effort to reform FIFA, the international governing body for soccer and the World Cup. Housman also said a special ambassador is needed to run the effort for the U.S.

Housman helped lead efforts to address doping and corruption issues in sports while working for Gen. (ret.) Barry McCaffrey. In 1999, President Clinton directed Gen. McCaffrey to lead these efforts in the wake of drug and corruption scandals surrounding the Olympics and other sports. Housman served as the primary U.S. negotiator and lead for sports reforms.

“The recent indictments of top FIFA officials by the Justice Department is an important first step in cleaning up world soccer, however these indictments alone won’t actually fix FIFA,” Housman said. “Broader systemic changes are necessary,” he added. “FIFA isn’t going to reform itself,” Housman said.

“To truly reform FIFA, the United States government needs to help build a coalition of nations to develop a package of mandatory reforms for FIFA. The United States and our allies must also work with the soccer community, especially the athletes and sponsors, to impress upon FIFA that there is no alternative but to adopt more transparent and democratic governance. The President should appoint a special ambassador for sport to lead this effort,” Housman said.

“This is the model that the international community successfully followed in helping reform the International Olympic Committee,” Housman said. “This approach works. The Olympics today are stronger, cleaner and better than ever before. The same came be done with FIFA if a similar effort is made. However, without U.S. leadership this won’t happen,” he added.

“Some critics will say we—the U.S. government—shouldn’t get involved. However, there is too much at stake. Corruption may have already cost the United States, and other nations, tens of billions of dollars,” Housman said. “And, corruption sends the worst possible message to the millions of American kids who love and play soccer,” he added.

“We owe it to fans of soccer worldwide, but in particular to our American soccer players, from the kids to the elite athletes, to protect the beautiful game. The United States government needs to captain that effort,” Housman said.

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