FIFA’s decision to remove its ethics team was a “setback” in the fight against corruption, as “hundreds” of cases of possible wrongdoing, some involving senior officials, were being probed, ousted investigator Cornel Borbely said on Wednesday.
World football’s governing body, the FIFA Council, recommended on Tuesday that Borbely, along with Hans-Joachim Eckert, the ethics judge who helped bring down Sepp Blatter, not be re-elected.
The decision not only threatens to overshadow the FIFA Congress, which takes place on May 11 in Bahrain, but also plunge the football body into another high-profile corruption episode.
Borbely and Eckert told a press conference in Manama that they had still not been officially told about their removal and only found out via their “mobile phones” when they landed in Bahrain on Tuesday evening.
The decision was bad for football’s scandal-tainted governing body and the sport itself, they said.
“The removal means nothing else but the end of the reform process,” said Borbely.
“The ethics commission is the key institution of the FIFA reforms.
“We could bring back some trust in FIFA — the ethics committee… was the role model for the whole sports world.
“The removal of the ethics committee is not in FIFA’s best interests… and it’s a setback for the fight against corruption.”
He added: “We investigated several hundred cases and several hundred are still pending and ongoing at the moment.”
The decision not to re-elect Eckert and Borbely comes as they have both served their four-year terms.
The Council recommended replacing Eckert with Vassilios Skouris of Greece, a former president of the European Court of Justice.
Similarly, ethics investigator Borbely is to be replaced by Colombia’s Maria Claudia Rojas.
The decision is set to be ratified by FIFA at its annual Congress, which convenes on Thursday.
It is a controversial decision as critics have accused FIFA president Gianni Infantino of having a personal motive to replace Eckert and Borbely, as an ethics investigation was launched against him last year.
Eckert was the judge who opened proceedings against Blatter and Michel Platini in November 2015.
“It’s not a great day for FIFA,” Eckert told the same hastily-arranged press conference.
“The loser is soccer, because trying to get a good, honest FIFA now it’s very difficult.”