FIFA has attempted to justify an overhaul of it ethics code, which now states that people who “tarnish the reputations of others” can be banned from football.
A new offence of defamation has been added to the FIFA ethics code, with scope for a ban of up to five years from the game. Officials can now also face a minimum five-year ban for bribery.
While the code provides no precise definition of defamation, FIFA has now provided further context in a statement, saying it is “the act of communicating false information that harms the reputation of an individual or a group”.
FIFA’s ethics committee will determine what constitutes “false information”.
Football’s governing body said the new defamation offence “exists in most legal systems”.
“The world of football is not immune to conduct that aims to tarnish the reputations of others and must be sanctioned accordingly,” the Zurich-based governing body said.
“The article concerning defamation is not only there to protect FIFA, but also to protect any other person covered by the code who may be subjected to discriminatory or defamatory statements in the context of FIFA events.”
FIFA outlined the “landmark changes” in a statement on the new code, which was distributed without a public announcement to soccer officials.
One of the most symbolically significant alterations is the word “corruption” being completed removed from the primary English version of the code. FIFA said this change has “no material impact on the actual infringements that are pursued.”
But cases of bribery, misappropriation of funds and manipulation of matches must now be prosecuted within 10 years of the offence.
In the previous edition of the code, prosecution for “bribery and corruption” was not subject to a “limitation period.” American investigators uncovered corruption in soccer going back decades before dozens of officials and entities were indicted in 2015.
“Although the new code has introduced new time limits for certain serious infringements, the ethics committee believes that ten years (or 15 years if an investigation is open) is a sufficient period of time in which to complete the investigation in cases of serious infringements,” FIFA said.
“This change will bring more legal certainty to the world of football by ensuring that potential infringements to the code are dealt with in a swift manner.”