Business As Usual: US Soccer’s Issues with Transparency

With the recent controversy surrounding the United States Soccer Federation, one might think the organization would be looking to show progress, break with the norms, and demonstrate that change is coming. The fact remains that the recent controversy isn’t new. The culture has been an ongoing issue for years.

One of the ways this toxic culture has manifested is secrecy. The Federation is plagued with a lack of transparency. Federation members have begun to propose and vote for policy changes in an effort to force US Soccer to become a more transparent organization, but the Board has continued to push back on most reforms.

One area where secrecy has permeated the culture of the organization is how meetings are conducted. For example: US Soccer Board meetings are not broadcast to its members. In addition, most discussions are not recorded in the minutes of the meeting due to the overuse of a provision called: executive session.

According to SquarMilner, “An executive session is essentially a meeting-within-a-meeting — a special closed session of the board in which more candid, confidential conversations can take place. It may take place before, in the middle or at the end of a regular board meeting.” The use of this provision has been used so frequently that it is often difficult to get any understanding or insight into the internal discussions, opinions, or decision making process of the Board.

Executive session has also been employed at US Soccer’s Annual General Meeting by other councils and committees during times when the membership and media are supposed to have access to these different meetings. In a time of extra scrutiny, this is an area where Cindy Parlow Cone, the new President of US Soccer, can begin to lead a cultural change: a move towards openness and transparency.

Lydia Wahlke

Taking proactive steps to find ways to be more open, inclusive, and available would be a step in the right direction. So far, US Soccer, Cone, and the Board have kept to status quo: silence. No announcements have been made regarding Lydia Wahlke who oversaw the legal tactics used by the Federation. There have been no announcements surrounding media availability for Cone and the rest of the Board. This must change if the Federation is to fix the issues that led to the debacle of last week that resulted in the resignation of Carlos Cordeiro. 

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