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FIFA picks Olympic veteran Carrard to lead task force steering reforms after bribery scandals

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GENEVA — FIFA has turned to Francois Carrard, who helped oversee cleaning up the IOC after the Salt Lake City bidding scandal, to chair a group leading reforms of football's corruption-hit governing body.

Carrard, former director general of the International Olympic Committee, was chosen Tuesday to lead a team of 12 officials picked by the six soccer continental confederations, plus two chosen by World Cup sponsors.

The selection of new FIFA executive committee member Sheik Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait as a member of the reform team confirmed the IOC powerbroker's growing influence in world soccer.

By now including sponsors in the project, FIFA acknowledged its growing anxiety since 14 people were indicted and four more made guilty pleas in an American federal investigation of racketeering and bribery in international soccer in May.

"It's a very big crisis," Carrard said in a conference call with reporters. "The objective is to get acceptable reforms to the world and to restore FIFA's credibility."

Carrard set a mid-September target for the panel's first meeting and acknowledged that a Sept. 24-25 meeting of FIFA's executive committee in Zurich was a "very tight" deadline to report much progress.

The Swiss lawyer served as the IOC's director general for 14 years until 2003, a period which included the scandal that led to the expulsion or resignation of 10 members connected to Salt Lake City's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

The scandal prompted the IOC to enact a series of reforms, including the creation of an ethics commission, the introduction of new term and age limits and a ban on member visits to bid cities.

Reform proposals being discussed for Sepp Blatter's successor as FIFA president and executive committee members include term limits, publishing their salary and stricter vetting of candidates.

Carrard's team includes three members of FIFA's often-discredited executive committee, whose seats could be voted on in future by soccer leaders worldwide instead of their home continent alone.

Amid skepticism by World Cup sponsors and FIFA critics that his task force would lack both independence and figures from outside the world of football, Carrard said input from so many confederation officials was "an asset."

Though Carrard praised previous FIFA anti-corruption advisers led by Swiss law professor Mark Pieth for providing "pillars" for his panel, he suggested people from within the sport could achieve more.

PHOTO: FILE - This is a Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2002 file photo of Director general of the International Olympic Committee, IOC, Swiss Francois Carrard, as he speaks at  a media briefing following the executive board's meeting, at the IOC headquarters, in Lausanne, Switzerland. FIFA said Tuesday Aug. 11, 2015 that former Olympic official Francois Carrard will chair a task force overseeing reforms of football's governing body in the wake of corruption scandals.(AP Photo/KEYSTONE, Laurent Gillieron, File)
FILE - This is a Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2002 file photo of Director general of the International Olympic Committee, IOC, Swiss Francois Carrard, as he speaks at a media briefing following the executive board's meeting, at the IOC headquarters, in Lausanne, Switzerland. FIFA said Tuesday Aug. 11, 2015 that former Olympic official Francois Carrard will chair a task force overseeing reforms of football's governing body in the wake of corruption scandals.(AP Photo/KEYSTONE, Laurent Gillieron, File)

"At some point these outsiders are sitting on the clouds. You have to be in the eye of the storm and moving the reforms with the people inside," said Carrard, who will call on some outside help.

Carrard will choose up to five people to form an advisory board that will review his reform proposals to the FIFA executive committee. Final approval is by FIFA's 209 member federations when they also elect their new president in Zurich on Feb. 26.

Blatter announced plans in June to quit, only four days after being re-elected for a fifth, four-year term.

Blatter said Carrard can "help FIFA to strengthen its governance structures in a credible and meaningful way."

UEFA President Michel Platini, the front-runner to succeed Blatter and inherit the reforms, said creating the panel was an important step.

"All of the confederations have picked their representatives based on their knowledge of football and governance matters, and we will now all work together for the greater good of the game," Platini said in a statement.

Platini's right-hand man at UEFA, general secretary Gianni Infantino, and legal director Alasdair Bell are on Carrard's team.

The panel also includes former IOC vice president Kevan Gosper, who was appointed by the Asian Football Confederation. The Australian was investigated and cleared of wrongdoing by the IOC ethics commission in 2000 over his links to the Salt Lake City bid, including a family ski trip to Utah.

CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, nominated Gorka Villar, its general director and son of Angel Maria Villar, the long-time Spanish federation head who is a vice president of FIFA and UEFA. Angel Maria Villar is being investigated by the FIFA ethics committee in its 2018-2022 World Cup bidding case.

Africa's nominees, Hany Abo Rida of Egypt and Constant Omari of Congo, are both FIFA executive committee members.

CONCACAF picked its legal adviser, Sam Gandhi, a partner in law firm Sidley Austin's New York office, plus Canada federation president Victor Montagliani.

Carrard's panel is working to the exact timetable of the FIFA presidential election but he distanced himself from the politics ahead.

"I am aware of the ambitions," he said. "The presidential campaign is none of my business."

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