FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said does not "have the power" to strip Joao Havelange of his honorary presidency and insisted the organisation could have done little more over the ISL bribery scandal.
Havelange, 96, and his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira, a 65-year-old former FIFA executive committee member, were named on Wednesday as having received millions of pounds in bribes from collapsed marketing firm ISL.
Blatter insists such payments were not illegal under Swiss law at the time and cannot be judged by current standards. He told FIFA.com: "[We could have] Known what? That commission was paid? Back then, such payments could even be deducted from tax as a business expense. Today, that would be punishable under law.
"You can't judge the past on the basis of today's standards. Otherwise it would end up with moral justice. I can't have known about an offence that wasn't even one.''
Addressing Havelange's position as honorary president, Blatter insisted it was not within his power to sanction him. "I don't have the power to call him to account,'' he said. "The Congress named him as honorary president. Only the Congress can decide his future.
"That is why we have started to strengthen our control mechanisms - to prevent something like this happening in the future. The ethics committee, which was created in 2006 on my initiative, is a direct result of the ISL case. The reform process is moving exactly in this direction.
"To strengthen FIFA's judicial system, some important steps have already been taken with the introduction of a two-chamber system - an adjudicatory body and an investigatory body. The executive committee will appoint the chairmen of these two chambers next week.''