FIFA VP Montagliani: English-speaking officials pompous on ethics

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, standing, congratulates newly elected CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani during the 66th FIFA Congress, in Mexico City, Friday, May 13, 2016. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

LONDON — Corruption will never be eradicated from soccer and officials in the English-speaking world should try to be humble rather than pompous when they talk about ethics, a FIFA vice-president said Tuesday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Canada’s Victor Montagliani pointed to how recent allegations of wrongdoing in English soccer over the last week shows that no part of the game is immune from scandals.

As president of the CONCACAF for five months, Montagliani has been overseeing the cleanup of a confederation covering North and Central America and the Caribbean that became synonymous with bribery after the sprawling American criminal investigation into soccer. Three of Montagliani’s recent predecessors were forced out of CONCACAF under a cloud of misconduct.

"I don’t think you will ever eliminate (corruption) — you get it in regular society," Montagliani told the AP. "But what we need to do is put enough checks and balances in place so we minimize the impact on the game and make it very difficult for people who are entering our game who want to do those nefarious things to be successful."

Montagliani was speaking during a visit to England, one of the most prominent countries in recent years to denounce misconduct at FIFA. But the probity of soccer here is now in the spotlight after a newspaper sting led to several coaches being accused of transgressions.

Unguarded comments by Sam Allardyce to undercover reporters forced the termination of his contract as England manager after 67 days. Allardyce appeared to offer advice to fictitious businesspeople on how to sidestep an outlawed player transfer practice, and also to negotiate a 400,000 pound ($519,000) public-speaking contract.

The Daily Telegraph also filmed an agent accusing 10 past or current managers in England, which it did not name, of taking bribes linked to player transfers.

Some soccer leaders will have to adopt a different approach now even the modern English game appears to have integrity issues, according to Montagliani.

"In the English speaking world, sometimes we’re a bit pompous — I have to say as an English-speaking person — and we need to look in the mirror and say, ‘OK, we understand we need to change those things, but let’s not think we are immune ourselves of that stuff happening in our backyards,"’ said Montagliani, who did not discuss the English Football Association leadership.

"We have an opportunity to finally clean the game but we have to come at it from a humble perspective, not from a wagging the finger … it’s about working collectively not about saying, ‘Hey, I’m perfect and you should be doing what I’m doing.’ No, absolutely not."

Montagliani, who was elected CONCACAF president in May, will be making his first keynote speech on Wednesday in England, which is home to the world’s richest soccer competition.

"I come from a country that is heavily influenced by the culture of the U.K. and in a lot of ways it has been influenced in a positive way," Montagliani said in London. "But we have also been influenced in a negative way I think. Our game has stagnated because we have followed a little bit of the technical vision of the U.K. which as we can see has never been as successful to the level it should be successful."

English soccer suffers from having "people who perhaps are in it for the wrong reasons," which Montagliani believes was highlighted by the newspaper investigation.

"There is no reason why with all the money, the passion, the love of the game, England shouldn’t be a top five country in the world," Montagliani said. "I don’t think it’s ever been close to being a top-five country for probably 20, 30 years on the pitch. Off the pitch, it’s probably number one."

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