USSF president Sunil Gulati: FIFA needs a culture change

ST. LOUIS -- U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati broke his silence on Friday regarding the scandals that have engulfed the sport of soccer in the last six months, and believes the world governing body needs a "culture change" to alter its current course.

"To say it's been tumultuous is an understatement," Gulati said during a roundtable with reporters. "The news and shoes dropping have been beyond belief, but one's benchmark changes given some of the things we've found out.

"We'll know I think much more when hopefully my colleagues at Executive Committee submit a set of recommendations for the organization for some pretty substantial changes, and the congress approves them."

As for whether Gulati thinks FIFA can reform itself, he said, "I hope so."

He added, "The pressure is being brought externally, whether it's commercial partners, legal authorities. A big part of that has to be a cultural change -- not just about rules -- that starts at the top and has to go through the entire organization."

Gulati stated that reaction to reports that FIFA president Sepp Blatter said there was an agreement to go to Russia for the 2018 World Cup and the U.S. in 2022 has been "completely overblown."

"If some subset of the U.S. Soccer board has an agreement about how they're going to vote on an issue in two weeks, and three people change their mind, that's fine. It's fine for a subset of a board to have an agreement on whatever they want to do, unless that agreement is reached for an inappropriate reason. That would be different."

Gulati added, "If three or four voters decide to change their mind, they have the right to do that."

In terms of the upcoming election for FIFA president, Gulati said that the USSF hasn't made a decision on who it will support, despite the fact that the candidate it supported last time, Prince Ali bin Hussein is running again.

"I think very highly of Prince Ali but in fairness to process we will meet with everyone, and then make a decision," he said.

With Chuck Blazer playing a prominent role in the ongoing FIFA scandal, Gulati was asked about his relationship with the now disgraced former CONCACAF general secretary, and if he should have known what Blazer was up to given his opulent lifestyle that included living in Trump Tower.

"Chuck was a good friend for a long time and had a lifestyle that was different than mine," said Gulati. "But he was involved in [trading in] financial markets apart from the soccer world. I don't know what else I can tell you other than that."

As for whether Gulati, in his role on CONCACAF's executive committee, should have been more suspicious of financial statements that were submitted, he said that the fact that the statements were audited means he shouldn't have been.

"You get financial reports that are audited. I'm not sure as one of 35 associations that gets those, what you're supposed to do with audited financials," he said.

When it was mentioned that investigative reporter Andrew Jennings had been uncovering evidence of illegalities for years, Gulati said, "Of course you would have heard of those things.

"But with all of that out there, when the investigation is rumored to have started in 2011, four years is when indictments came down with the full force of the Swiss and American governments. I don't know how one reacts to rumors or anything else."