A bill passed by U.S. Congress earlier this month on reforms to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) is poised to impact the voting structure of the U.S. Soccer federation, and increase the power of the organization’s Athletes’ Council.
The Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act is focused on preventing athletes from suffering the kind of abuse that came to light in the Larry Nasser case, one in which the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics was found to have abused hundreds of girls and women.
The bill allows Congress to fire the USOPC’s entire board and de-certify National Governing Bodies (NGBs) — of which the USSF is one — if they fail to comply with the law, assuming that it is eventually signed by President Donald J. Trump. The legislation would also increase the amount of money the organization provides to the U.S. Center for SafeSport to $20 million.
The bill was passed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate on Aug. 4. And a companion bill was passed by the House on Oct. 1.
Also contained in the bill is language that mandates that athlete representation on boards and committees of NGBs be increased from 20% to 33.3%. And a USSF spokesperson said that the change will also apply to the USSF’s National Council, which constitutes the organization’s voting membership.
The USSF’s Athletes’ Council — which represents the interests of athletes, including those on various national teams — will be the direct beneficiary of the changes. It has historically voted as a bloc in USSF election matters, and it was the support of the Athletes’ Council that helped tip the 2018 USSF presidential in favor of Carlos Cordeiro. The increase in its voting strength will now give the council an even greater say in who leads the USSF after 2021.
The spokesperson added that the federation is in the process of crafting a proposal related to the legislation so that it can be put on the agenda for the next Annual General Meeting set for February of 2021. If passed, the changes will not impact the elections for USSF president and vice-president that are scheduled to take place for that meeting.
The USOPC is giving NGBs until the end of 2021 to fully comply if it is signed into law.