Fifa criticised after clearing women’s football coach of sexual harassment
- Fifpro concerned by case of Argentina’s Diego Alberto Guacci
- Fifa’s adjudicatory chamber finds insufficient evidence
The international players’ union Fifpro has said the decision of the adjudicatory chamber of the Fifa ethics committee to not sanction an Argentinian women’s football coach accused of sexual harassment and abusive behaviour raises “extremely serious questions about how professional football keeps players safe”.
Five female players had given evidence to Fifa accusing Diego Alberto Guacci, who is technical director of the Under-17 and Under-15 Argentinian women’s national teams, a Fifa instructor for women’s football and Fifa technical expert and mentor, of verbal abuse and sexual harassment carried out over a number of years.
A Fifpro statement said: “The players were extremely brave to challenge the coach’s conduct and contribute towards making football a safer and more inclusive environment for their peers. The decision by the Fifa ethics committee raises questions about how much evidence is needed for disciplinary action and will deter other players from standing up against the perpetrators of harassment and abuse.”
The union has also raised concerns about the lack of gender diversity in the adjudicatory chamber and of the length of the investigation, which began in 2020. It criticised the decision to publish the outcome before the players or their representatives at Fifpro had been provided with a copy of the decision, despite this being raised by the union as “critical in any procedure which involves victims and whistle-blowers”. Not providing warning “made it impossible for Fifpro to properly prepare the players for this deeply distressing decision that may significantly impact their wellbeing and careers”, it said.
Fifa’s investigatory chamber had concluded in its final report that Guacci had violated a number of Fifa code of ethics articles, including “failing to protect, respect and safeguard the integrity and personal dignity of others”, “making use of offensive gestures and language in order to insult, isolate, ostracise players generally and individually”, “having engaged in acts leading to mental abuse, as well as for making use of hostile acts intended to isolate, ostracise players generally and individually” and having “sexually harassed [a player] by presenting her with unwanted and unsolicited images with pornographic content and by requesting her pictures of her intimate parts”.
However, the adjudicatory chamber concluded that “the evidence on file is insufficient to corroborate, to its comfortable satisfaction, the players’ account of the events” and said that “conducts have not been supported by any material evidence apart from the players’ testimonies”.
Guacci has consistently denied wrongdoing and when approached by the Guardian he said he was unable to comment because he was bound by confidentiality.
Fifpro said it hoped the chief of the Fifa ethics committee’s investigatory chamber would appeal against the decision given it had “rightly advised that the coach had violated safeguarding and sexual harassment regulations”. It said: “This is particularly important since neither the players nor Fifpro have – according to the rules and jurisprudence currently in place – a right to appeal the decision.
“Fifpro will continue to support all football players who courageously speak out against abuse, harassment and discrimination.”
Fifa said in a statement: “Fifa’s position is clear: anyone found guilty of misconduct and abuse in football shall be brought to justice, sanctioned and removed from the game. In line with the above, Fifa takes any allegation reported to it very seriously. Therefore Fifa encourages anyone who is aware of abuse or unethical behaviour in connection to football matters to immediately report it to through our confidential whistle-blowing hotline BKMS.
“In relation to the case of Mr Guacci, Fifa’s ethics committee followed the due process indicated in the Fifa code of ethics.”