The Nobel Peace Center, the museum in Norway that promotes the Nobel Peace Prize and its winners, said Monday it will sever ties with FIFA, the international soccer governing body mired in corruption scandals.
The Peace Center has partnered with FIFA and the Norwegian Football Association, the sport’s governing organization in Norway, since 2012 to promote the “Handshake For Peace” initiative on and off the field. Its board voted to “terminate the cooperation with FIFA as soon as circumstances allow,” according to a statement posted on its website Monday.
“This does not mean that the FIFA agreement is terminated immediately, but that a dialogue starts about the ending of the cooperation from the side of the Nobel Peace Center,” Bente Erichsen, the center's executive director, said in the statement. “We still believe in the Handshake For Peace initiative, and wish for it to live on in the future.”
It was not immediately clear whether the Peace Center’s decision is due to the ongoing corruption scandal, in which FIFA officials are under indictment or investigation in both the United States and Switzerland. The Peace Center board’s vote is “probably to do with [what's] happened at FIFA,” the general secretary of the Norwegian FA told Josimar, the Norwegian soccer magazine that first broke news of the decision.
The termination of the partnership follows an announcement Friday that Interpol, the international police cooperative, would freeze its partnership with FIFA. FIFA had paid Interpol to help fight match-fixing in international soccer. Major FIFA sponsors have expressed concern about the corruption scandal, but thus far have not ended their agreements with the organization.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who announced plans to resign on June 2, has made Handshake For Peace a centerpiece initiative for the soccer organization, with some speculating he has aimed the tie to fulfill his goal of winning a Nobel Peace Prize. FIFA describes the Handshake For Peace as “a gesture of friendship and respect intended to inspire the world to unite in peace, solidarity and fair play.”
FIFA originally agreed to donate more than €800,000 ($902,000) to the Peace Center as part of the initiative, which first went on display at the 2013 Club World Cup in Morocco and now features team captains and match officials shaking hands on the field before and after matches. It also has made appearances off the pitch, such as in May, when Israeli and Palestinian officials had their own “handshake for peace” at an international FIFA meeting.
"We are disappointed to have learned from the media about the Nobel Peace Center’s intent to terminate the cooperation with FIFA on the Handshake for Peace initiative," FIFA said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday. "FIFA is reluctant to accept this unilateral approach on what is a joint initiative between the football community and the Nobel Peace Center. This action does not embody the spirit of fair play especially as it obstructs the promotion of the key values of peace-building and anti-discrimination."
There are "ongoing discussions" about the future of the initiative, the statement said, and the Handshake For Peace is to continue as scheduled at the Women's World Cup and other future events.
This story has been updated to include a statement from FIFA.