Football bosses to reveal travel bills

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After months of defiance, top officials within Norway’s national football federation have given in to demands to make public what they spend on travel. Football boss Kjetil Siem claimed he wanted to stop feeling like he was under constant suspicion.

Kjetil Siem, one of Norway's top football bureaucrats, has defended the way NFF has handled its many problems of late, not least the replacement of head coach Egil "Drillo" Olsen. Siem, shown here being interviewed by state broadcaster NRK, has also made it clear that he dislikes the criticism NFF has been getting. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Kjetil Siem, top administrative boss of Norway’s football federation NFF, will now be turning over his travel expenses, after NFF’s board bowed to massive criticism and pressure from the government minister in charge of their funding. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

“Now everyone can see where the trips have gone, who has been traveling, their receipts for hotels, airlines, cars, food and such,” Terje Svendsen, who recently took over as president of the Norwegian football federation NFF, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday. Since assuming his new job, Svendsen has faced a storm of criticism over travel expenses, also from within the organization.

Svendsen said NFF will now adopt an entirely new policy of openness after criticism that football bosses like Siem, the coach of the men’s national football team and other NFF executives have lived the high life while local football and athletics clubs are chronically short of funds.

Resistance to repeated requests for openness about their expense accounts, also from the media led by newspaper VG, had been justified on competitive grounds. Siem, for example, didn’t want everyone to know where he was traveling or who he was meeting so as not to jeopardize any major deals such as trades of players or broadcasting rights.

‘Detailed overviews’ to be made available
Such concerns apparently have now been brushed aside to meet demands for openness, not least from the government minister in charge of handing out the state funds that provide most of the sports bureaucrats’ budgets. Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland of the Conservative Party took up the calls for openness around how taxpayers’ is spent on sports shortly after she was appointed late last year, even noting that while she would need to document all expenses tied to this summer’s travel to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the sports officials wouldn’t.

Now they will. Svendsen said that “detailed overviews” would be released regarding budgets and expenses. Siem, who filed expenses of NOK 491,000 (USD 61,000), said he would comply with what NFF’s board had decided and had only resisted revealing his expenses to avoid sabotaging negotiations for TV rights and other deals involving the organization.

“For me personally there’s an advantage to showing my receipts,” Siem told NRK. “They will show that there’s a very good clarification for them. Norwegian football has become very international.” He hopes he’ll do less traveling this year than last, when there also were many meetings tied to the controversy around the international football federation FIFA.

Limited release from NIF
Norway’s other major athletics organization, Norges Idrettsforbund (NIF), has also heeded Helleland’s demands for more openness, but only partially. Top executives will now reveal their travel expenses, but only for the current period in which they’re serving, which goes back to June 2015. That means that questionable expenses tied to the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, for example, will remain secret.

Inge Andersen, who as secretary general of NIF is the organization’s top administrative official, has refused to answer questions about how taxpayers’ money was spent in Sochi, where he and other sports bureaucrats were still promoting an unsuccessful and unpopular attempt to host the Olympics in Oslo in 2022.

Asked whether he had anything to hide regarding travel expenses tied to the Olympics or among his own personal receipts, Andersen still declined to answer in an interview with Trondheim newspaper Adresseavisen last weekend. He stated only that “I have always tried to be correct in all my endeavurs, and that also applies to the use of money in my role as secretary general.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund