International players’ union Fifpro said the decision by the adjudicatory chamber of Fifa’s Ethics Committee not to sanction an Argentine women’s football coach accused of sexual harassment and abusive conduct raises “extremely serious questions about how professional football keeps players safe”. .
Five players had testified to Fifa that they had accused Diego Alberto Guacci, technical director of Argentina’s U17 and U15 women’s national teams, Fifa’s women’s football instructor and technical expert and mentor to Fifa, of verbal abuse and sexual harassment carried out over several years .
A statement from Fifpro said: “The players have been extremely courageous in challenging the manager’s behavior and helping to make football a safer and more inclusive environment for their peers. The Fifa Ethics Committee’s decision raises questions about how much evidence is needed for disciplinary action and will deter other players from taking a stand against perpetrators of harassment and abuse.”
The union has also raised concerns about the lack of gender diversity in the adjudicatory chamber and the length of the inquiry, which began in 2020. She criticized the decision to publish the result before players or their representatives at Fifpro had received a copy of the decision, despite what the union says is “critical in any proceeding involving victims and whistleblowers”. The lack of a warning “made it impossible for Fifpro to adequately prepare players for this deeply troubling decision that could significantly affect their well-being and careers,” it said.
Fifa’s investigatory chamber had concluded in its final report that Guacci had violated a number of articles of the Fifa code of ethics, including “failure to protect, respect and uphold the integrity and personal dignity of others”, ” using offensive gestures and language okay”. Insulting, isolating, ostracizing players generally and individually”, “having engaged in acts leading to psychological abuse, as well as engaging in hostile acts aimed at isolating, ostracizing players generally and individually” and “sexually were harassed”. [a player] by being presented with unintentionally and unsolicited pictures with pornographic content and by requesting pictures of her private parts”.
However, the adjudicatory chamber concluded that “the evidence on file was insufficient to corroborate the players’ account of events to their comfortable satisfaction”, saying that “the conduct was not supported by any material evidence, apart from the testimonies of the players”. .
Guacci has consistently denied any wrongdoing and when approached by the Guardian said he could not comment as he was bound by confidentiality.
Fifpro said it hoped the head of the investigatory chamber of Fifa’s Ethics Committee would appeal the decision as it had “rightly pointed out that the coach had breached safeguards and sexual harassment rules”. It states: “This is particularly important as neither the players nor Fifpro have any right – under the applicable rules and case law – to appeal the decision.
“Fifpro will continue to support all football players who bravely 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 will be tried, sanctioned and removed from the game. Accordingly, FIFA takes every reported allegation very seriously. As such, Fifa encourages anyone with knowledge of abuse or unethical conduct relating to football matters to report it immediately via our confidential whistleblowing hotline, BKMS.
“In relation to Mr Guacci’s case, the Fifa Ethics Committee has followed the due process set out in the FIFA Code of Ethics.”