New FIFA ethics chief won’t be pushed around

Saturday, 7 March 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Younger than some professional footballers, Swiss attorney Cornel Borbely is at first sight an unlikely choice as the man to step into Michael Garcia’s shoes and try to keep corruption out of FIFA. A disillusioned Garcia, the former US attorney with a long track record in complicated, international, high profile cases, resigned in December, saying he felt he was no longer making progress and that soccer’s governing body “lacked leadership.” Widely regarded as the man most likely to get to the root of FIFA’s problems, Garcia’s departure was seen as another sign that the organisation was incapable of reforming itself. Borbely, who has enjoyed a remarkably swift rise through the Swiss legal world, has landed the role as FIFA’s chief ethics investigator at the age of 36, having been promoted from his previous role as Garcia’s deputy. In football terms, he is like a young coach who has made a good start to his career with middle-ranking teams and has now been appointed to lead a large, volatile, internationally renowned club with an army of fickle supporters. In his first interview with international media, Borbely told Reuters he would not be pushed around and rejected suggestions he will act on FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s orders. “This is absurd and any such claim is not founded in any facts that I could comprehend or cite. I can only emphasise that I am not an employee of FIFA,” he said. “I run my own law firm and I don’t take any orders at all from FIFA – none whatsoever. I alone decide whether to open, conduct and conclude an investigation and on its result. “I am completely independent of any FIFA officials. Otherwise I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, do this job. Nobody interferes – neither the (FIFA) executive committee nor anybody else.” He added: “My contact to the executive committee is purely professional. Some of these contacts have become public, but it is imperative for my independence that they remain professional, otherwise I could not fulfil my mandate. “I can’t disclose details of how often I have met with Sepp Blatter, but my contacts with him are limited to purely professional encounters. He has no authority to give directives to me.” A physically imposing figure who headed an economic crimes investigation unit in Zurich for three years and has worked as a prosecutor for a military tribunal, Borbely has accepted what is seen by many as a thankless job with little to gain. Asked about his motivation, Borbely talked about the “fairness of the sport” and said he was also eager to apply his experience as a prosecutor and criminal lawyer to sports. He also warned there would be no quick fix. “It’s going to take a lot longer than a few months of good work to show that we are highly professional, but that is our aim,” he said. “Our work is conducted with a high degree of professionalism, is of high quality and efficient, and I believe we are a credible team. “I have few illusions that it will be quite some time, especially in these turbulent times, before that is recognised.” FIFA has been plagued by a wave of scandals and controversy, ranging from allegations of corruption in the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process to a row over $25,000 watches given as gifts to executive committee members at the World Cup in Brazil. FIFA’s new chief ethics investigator Swiss attorney Cornel Borbely speaks during an interview with Reuters in Zurich 4 March