ZURICH - FIFA is not a mafia organization and its executive committee members shouldn't become a target for public criticism by its own anti-corruption advisers, president Sepp Blatter said Friday.
Blatter defended world football's ruling body, saying that a reform drive underway was working and restoring FIFA's credibility. He used a news conference to renew FIFA's call for world football to fight match-fixing and illegal betting, and said FIFA would seek to protect players who reported attempts to fix games.
"We are not corrupt or a mafia organization" he said. "It is always a question of perception and the question of reality. We are in a good mood and in a good moment and I am sure that we will be able to succeed."
Blatter also insisted that there was no opposition to reform within FIFA — despite claims to the contrary last week by Mark Pieth, who is leading an expert panel of anti-corruption advisers.
Pieth had told a sports governance conference that "older" FIFA elected officials were resisting the reform proposals which Blatter invited his group to propose after bribery and vote-buying allegations damaged the game's governing body.
Blatter said he met Pieth's panel on Thursday and corrected remarks made by the Swiss law professor. He also revealed that several of his colleagues had objected to Pieth's comments when they discussed his reform mission on Friday.
"They were not happy about some declarations made by this independent committee or other officials involved there," the FIFA president told reporters, adding: "There is no opposition in the FIFA executive committee towards the reform process."
Blatter and his 25-member board met over two days at the same time as Pieth's advisory panel gathered elsewhere in FIFA's home city of Zurich.
The group, composed of senior anti-corruption and legal experts working alongside delegates from FIFA sponsors and stakeholders, submitted a first round of proposals in March to Blatter's ruling committee. Those led to FIFA's 209 member nations approving a limited slate of changes, including a revamped two-chamber ethics court to prosecute and judge corruption cases.
Pieth's panel has now begun preparing a second round of suggestions which FIFA members will vote on next May in Mauritius.
Blatter meanwhile announced a new panel which will shape changes to FIFA's legal statutes in consultation with member associations. Chaired by executive committee member Theo Zwanziger of Germany, it includes the secretary generals and legal directors of FIFA and its six continental confederations.
It will examine the South American confederation's decision to give 84-year-old president Nicolas Leoz the job for life, even though FIFA is considering term limits for key posts. Leoz has held office since 1986, and been a FIFA executive member for 14 years.
"This is one of the matters that is now in the special working group," Blatter said.
First, Blatter said he and Pieth would meet later Friday to update on their respective progress.
With Kosovo's national and club teams waiting approval to play international matches against FIFA members, the executive committee pushed back an expected decision to its next meeting on Dec. 14 in Tokyo.
In Tokyo, FIFA will receive a progress report on its €20 million ($25.7 million) investment over 10 years with Interpol to create an education centre in Singapore. It will teach football officials, players and coaches how to recognize and repel approaches from match-fixers.
Blatter said he was concerned that Simone Farina, who FIFA made an ambassador after he turned whistle blower against corruption in Italian football, had not found a club this season.
"We have to protect the players who disclose things," he said. "It is essential."