The FIFA Scandal Juxtapose: Why ICANN needs to be worried!

Cartoonist Jon Horner';s interpretation of the FIFA scandal.
Cartoonist Jon Horner’s interpretation of the FIFA scandal. Credits CNN

Only proper regulation by an independent agency with full Congressional mandate will ensure that a ‘FIFA-Mafia type’ organization of systematic corruption does not emerge. ICANN should not be trusted by Congress to regulate itself.Sophia Bekele CircleID March 2015

This week we have been overwhelmed by the news of seven FIFA officials and associates who were arrested in Zurich on a US corruption indictment. This happened just as FIFA gathered for its congress. Surprisingly and amidst this graft claims, incumbent FIFA president Sepp Blatter won elections again.

This looks like a very desperate and dysfunctional organization that appears to have been operating a lot under corrupt ways. This may be not be a lot of news until The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the private sector, non-profit corporation created in 1998 is juxtaposed with FIFA due to its claims of lack of accountability and transparency.

ICANN is currently designing a model to allow it to operate without the oversight of the NTIA under the US government, as such discussions around how the organizations accountability can be tightened have taken center stage.

The numerous accusations of ICANN’s unaccountability to the multistakeholders have been raised a lot.  Some of these claims which compare ICANN to FIFA came as early as March 2015, when one Corporate Governance expert wrote in the CircleID industry blog in a post mortem analysis of Senate hearing on ‘Preserving the Multi-stakeholder Model of Internet Governance

Only proper regulation by an independent agency with full Congressional mandate will ensure that a ‘FIFA-Mafia type’ organization of systematic corruption does not emerge. ICANN should not be trusted by Congress to regulate itself.

Ms.Sophia Bekele’s comments that appear in the article “No Legal Basis for IANA Transition”: A Post-Mortem Analysis of Senate Committee Hearing” further state that

“ The whole world is always busy enjoying the world’s ‘beautiful game’, without paying any attention to FIFA’s accountability or the transparency of FIFA’s actions and processes. In recent years, FIFA has been bedevilled by many controversies and unresolved scandals.

During the last few years, numerous allegations of administrative high-handedness, bribery, vote-rigging, vote-buying, corruption and graft relating to the award of World Cup hosting privileges, marketing rights and payments to FIFA Executive Committee members by special interest groups have been rife. Many of these accusations have been investigated by committees affiliated to FIFA but no one has ever been found culpable and properly punished, yet the allegations refuse to go away (See for example, “Fifa ‘like mafia family’, says former FA boss Triesman”. Many books have been written, and TV documentaries have been produced on this issue. If the oversight of FIFA had been within the purview of the US Congress, the organization would have been thoroughly investigated and ‘hammered’ like other sports governance associations in the United States, but since FIFA remains only accountable to itself and operating out of Zurich in Europe, the world soccer governing body has continued with ‘business as usual’.

It is therefore the responsibility of Congress to ensure that the IANA Technical functions are not transitioned to a Global Multi-Stakeholder Community that will become like FIFA. FIFA has refused to demonstrate any accountability to the global public interest that it serves or to the international coalition of quasi-nongovernmental organizations (‘quangos’ – Country Football Federations and Associations) that comprise its membership.” You can read the entire article here

These comparison of ICANN with FIFA is worrying since it indicates case of an organization that may be wallowing too much in its own conformity to disregard the warning signs of continued unaccountability. Given that the new domains are expanding the name space, ICANN ought to acknowledge its own mistakes and start a system repair job ASAP, because “…The love of money is the root of all evil’, and a global body suffused with cash but not accountable to anybody, will fall into many evils of corruption.”

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