One year on from the Extraordinary FIFA Congress 2016, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura spoke about the practical side of the reforms implemented and the new structure at the organisation.

You were appointed as FIFA Secretary General only a few months after the statutory reforms were approved. What has the organisation done since then to implement these changes?
The reformed FIFA Statutes brought about principles of governance that should be the starting point for any institution – particularly one of a global reach like FIFA – to function properly. These principles were institutionalised as soon as the Statutes came into force: the separation of powers and their respective roles; the term limits; the disclosure of the annual compensations for FIFA senior management; the tighter control of how the money flows into and out of the organisation.

But it takes some time and a lot of work for these to be more than principles and to be fully implemented. The reforms changed the essence of how the organisation is structured and how it relates to the various stakeholders. Now we are rolling out the processes to get this structure to function.

Can you give an example?
A good one is the standing committees: by the time the reformed statutes were approved, we had a number of tournaments and activities in the pipeline. We couldn’t simply dismantle the existing dynamic overnight. So, we prepared the ground, the FIFA Council appointed the names, we conducted all the checks, and now the streamlining of the standing committees – present in the reforms – is a full reality.

We have fewer committees, which feature more independent members and have a stronger participation of women, including at the FIFA Council level. Each of the elements stated in the reforms brings along a call to action similar to this one. 2016 was a year to equip FIFA with the tools to perform exactly how it is determined in the reformed Statutes. Now this solid structure is starting to bear fruit.

How is this structure supposed to keep the misconduct of the past from happening again?
Here, too, there are the two aspects: the legal framework and our measures to put it in place. The Statutes define a governing system whose checks and balances combat corruption. But this only means concrete change if we transform it into action, into the way our day-to-day business is operated.

One of the fundamental actions we took from day one was to undertake the financial and forensic audits of the institution and to adopt a zero-tolerance policy against wrongdoing. It had to be like this; it was our obligation. Ethical behaviour must permeate every single process within FIFA, and this must remain absolutely clear for everyone to see, particularly after what happened in recent years.

This is why it was so important to set up a compliance division, for example, and supply it with all it needs to fulfil its duties; all the access to inspect and investigate any organisational unit. FIFA is already being run in a much more professional and transparent way than what it was a year ago. But we are aware that there is still much to do to implement some principles present in the reforms. And we are working hard for that.

Some of these principles are rather broad ones, like integrating human rights into what FIFA does or promoting the presence of women in football. What do these mean in practical terms?
They are broad and they must be translated into tangible measures. The promotion of human rights is in article 3 of the Statutes. Right. But now it is also a department within FIFA: one with the duty of creating policies and processes and integrating human rights into everything that we do. The same thing with women’s football and the presence of women in football: the reforms institutionally increased female representation on the FIFA Council, but it was up to us, the administration, to make sure that the concept was reflected in how we operate.

So, for the first time ever, FIFA has a dedicated Women’s Football Division. It’s a change of status. It means a dedicated budget, a seat on our management board. This will have a direct impact on the game. Off the pitch, of course at the time there was a lot of attention paid to my appointment as Secretary General, but it goes way beyond that. More than 40 per cent of FIFA’s employees are women, but there’s always been a lack of representation in senior positions. This, too, is changing.

Besides our Chief Women’s Football Officer, Sarai Bareman, the key position of Chief Member Associations Officer is occupied by a woman, Joyce Cook, and the representation level of women on our committees is at an unprecedented level. FIFA is working on many administrative changes and they affect our processes to the very core. But I’m confident that they will form a very solid basis of good governance for the organisation going forward, for many years to come.