- Associated Press - Friday, September 28, 2012

ZURICH (AP) - Criticized on all sides after a series of scandals, FIFA’s executive committee members should not be publicly targeted by the governing body’s anti-corruption advisers, President Sepp Blatter said Friday.

Blatter said at a news conference that a reform drive was working and restoring FIFA’s credibility. He renewed FIFA’s call for world soccer to fight match-fixing and illegal betting, and added the body 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 said he met the expert panel led by Mark Pieth on Thursday and corrected remarks the Swiss law professor made in Denmark last week.

Pieth had told a sports governance conference that “older” FIFA elected officials were resisting the reform proposals that Blatter invited his group to propose after bribery and vote-buying allegations damaged soccer’s governing body.

Blatter said several colleagues objected to the criticism when they discussed his reform mission Friday.

“They were not happy about some declarations made by this independent committee or other officials involved there,” the FIFA president told reporters, insisting: “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 begun preparing a second round of suggestions proposals that FIFA members will vote on next May in Mauritius.

Blatter announced a new panel will shape changes to FIFA’s legal statutes in consultation with member associations. It is composed of the secretary generals and legal directors of FIFA and its six continental confederations. It meets for the first time next month.

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.

There FIFA will receive a progress report on its $25.7 million investment over 10 years with Interpol to create an education center in Singapore. It will teach soccer 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 soccer, had not found a club this season.

“We have to protect the players who disclose things,” he said. “It is essential.”

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