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Hackers Tweak FIFA On Corruption, As Reform Advocate Quits

NPR icon by Bill Chappell
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Fabrice Coffrini

FIFA's efforts to rehabilitate its tarnished public image were dealt twin setbacks Monday, as the Twitter account of the international soccer federation was hacked and used to send messages joking about corruption. And a member of its reform committee quit, saying they were making no progress.

It was the awarding of the 2022 World Cup tournament to wealthy Qatar that evidently led hackers to take over Twitter accounts belonging to FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter, Monday.

After Blatter's account tweeted, "So what if I took money from Qatari prince? I am the family's bread earner," the message was retweeted at least a thousand times — including by the FIFA World Cup account, which had also been hacked.

That and other messages have since been removed, but not before they were compiled by sports site NESN. One of the final messages was a claim of responsibility by the Syrian Electronic Army, which has previously hacked accounts belonging to the BBC, CBS, and NPR.

Also on Monday, FIFA's Independent Governance Committee, a panel of anti-corruption advisers, lost member Alexandra Wrage, whose Trace International helps groups fight bribery.

In a piece published by Forbes this morning, Wrage writes that the panel, formed to restore public confidence in FIFA, "has done little more than polish the veneer on an outdated men's club."

The Independent Governance Committee has pushed for full disclosure of salaries and bonuses for FIFA's executives, as well as more transparency in its selection process for tournaments.

Wrage resigned from the panel "because it was not having any impact," she tells Bloomberg. "It's been the least productive project I've ever been involved in. There's no doubt about that," she says.

Wrage quit after serving on the reform panel for more than a year. She says she was frustrated that the committee was not able to get its recommendations onto the agenda for FIFA's upcoming congress at the end of May.

And Wrage writes that FIFA, which has also faced calls to institute term limits and reform its internal voting process, has no reason to change.

"The only entity capable of insisting on transparency at FIFA is the Swiss government," she says, "to which FIFA's unapologetic opacity should be as embarrassing as its $1.4 billion in tax-free reserves are interesting. I hope they will act."

Many expect Blatter to to declare the reform committee's work completed after next month's congress, deeming it a success.

The most recent developments follow closely on the heels of a report by CONCACAF's Integrity Committee, in which it detailed charges of fraud, mishandling money, and ethics violations against former FIFA Executive Committee members Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer, who had been top executives at CONCACAF until 2011.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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