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Fifa choice for reform panel head rejects role after discussion

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Domenico Scala won't lead Fifa's reform task force amid the biggest crisis in the 111-year history of soccer's governing body due to a lack of independence on the panel.

[LONDON] Domenico Scala won't lead Fifa's reform task force amid the biggest crisis in the 111-year history of soccer's governing body due to a lack of independence on the panel.

Mr Scala, the independent head of Fifa's audit and compliance body and a group monitoring its presidential elections, would only consider leading the group if autonomy was guaranteed, his spokesman said by e-mail. Instead, panel members will be appointed by Fifa and regional bodies.

The 50-year-old Swiss businessman was under consideration for the added role by the organization.

Since Fifa President Sepp Blatter said he would step down on June 2, Mr Scala has been suggesting changes to the governing body. It was rocked after the US Department of Justice detailed two decades of crimes including racketeering and money laundering against senior officials in the sport.

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Fifa hasn't named members of the task force, which is due to make recommendations to the executive board in September ahead of a full vote by its 209 member federations at a special congress in February when Mr Blatter's replacement will also be elected. Fifa's secretary general Jerome Valcke said on Friday that an update on the reform group will be made in "weeks."

Mr Scala has suggested changes focusing on the executive board that's been at the center of wrongdoing allegations. Members sold their votes when selecting World Cup hosts, were involved in illegal ticket sales and committed fraud in their regional management roles, according to US authorities, who have so far charged nine current and former Fifa officials.

The task force will focus on nine proposals including term limits for top officials, a new centralized integrity check mechanism for office holders and publishing executive pay. All those measures were rejected in the past. Mr Scala had been working with advisers before Fifa's executive board decided to create the task force. Whoever takes charge will now have less than six weeks to come up with a full list of proposals.

Mr Scala's decision to not take charge of the group, which will consist of officials from soccer's six regional bodies, may please skeptics of Fifa's efforts at change.

Now, a group that includes Transparency International, said Mr Scala wasn't independent enough to lead Fifa's reform movement. Still, since joining in 2012, he's been among the biggest internal critics of the board, calling the executive committee in 2013 the organization's "biggest risk."

Visa Inc and Coca-Cola Co, both under pressure from campaign groups, called for Fifa to allow for a third-party commission to oversee the changes. Visa Chief Executive Officer Charlie Scharf said Fifa's reaction to the crisis was "wholly inadequate."

"Two things need to happen to ensure credible reform," Mr Scharf said. "First, an independent, third-party commission led by one or more impartial leaders is critical to formulate reforms. Second, we believe no meaningful reform can be made under Fifa's existing leadership."

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