This FIFA stuff is the most radical story in the history of sport.
So far, 14 people have been arrested on corruption charges relating to the selection of World Cup hosts, bungs for Presidential election votes and backhanders for the placement of multi-million dollar commercial contracts.
In short, FIFA is not an organisation you’d want to be directly associated with at the moment. Or at least, you’d think not…
So why, oh why, are FIFA’s sponsors and partners still refusing to say anything truly meaningful about their association other than making pitiful statements suggesting they’re; ’monitoring the situation carefully’ or (even worse) that they expect FIFA to sort itself out and organise its own reform?
There can be no doubt that FIFA is now such a toxic brand it’s incapable of effecting change from within or restoring anything close to credibility. So, if you’re the CEO of Coca-Cola, McDonalds or VISA, or any of the other sponsor brands, why would you want to be connected for any longer than you have to?
In particular, what is wrong with VISA? We currently have FIFA embroiled in racketeering, corruption and money laundering allegations yet VISA, a global financial services company, continues to think that ongoing association is OK!
What about the strictures relating to financial services? What about VISA’s regulatory credibility? It all turns to shit for as long as they remain connected, especially when you consider that VISA’s partnership is reflected on FIFA’s website as follows:
“Visa and FIFA create unique programmes at FIFA tournaments that benefit Visa account holders and clients.”
Oh really? That’ll be tournaments that are now under scrutiny for being obtained corruptly; tournaments that were awarded privileges because some people had their hands in the till.
I’m sure “account holders and clients” will be comforted by the fact their financial services provider is still willing to sit at that table.
Folks, there’s always Mastercard. Remember them? FIFA had to pay them US$90 million (yes, that’s 90 million dollars!) in 2007 as compensation for dishonesty and bad faith negotiations. The then TV and Marketing Director was sacked for cocking that up. Today he is the number two to Sepp Blatter – Secretary General.
Some have suggested the sponsors are focused on the feel good factor of being associated with a World Cup finals tournament rather than FIFA itself. Therefore, they say it’s reasonable that they’re worried a competitor will snap up their place if they vacate it.
The way things are now, there’d be more credibility, gravitas and hero grams for a company that grew some balls and said; ‘either he goes or we go’.
This is something I reflected at a press conference in London only last week. Before the corruption story blew, I said sponsors must be accountable for their association with FIFA because FIFA are ignoring basic human rights issues. These are issues created by construction work as part of preparation for Qatar 2022. Now you can add yet another round of corruption into the mix too. By not challenging FIFA, the sponsors effectively condone these appalling practices. What more do they need before they’ll do the right thing? If having seven senior FIFA officials dragged out of their hotel beds at 6.00am in early morning raids and arrested doesn’t open their eyes, I don’t know what does.
FIFA now has no credibility and is past the point of redemption in its current guise. Forget the fact that Sepp Blatter is not currently under investigation, he is the man in charge. FIFA needs new leadership and a new identity and its the sponsors and partners who have a responsibility to apply their own commercial pressure.
This is no longer about the corporate benefits or marketing opportunities around a World Cup, it’s about morality and basic, implicit endorsement of an organisation under scrutiny for endemic corruption and failure.
As a chairman of a sports brand, I’m appalled at the amount of rhetoric and the notion that it’s; ‘really nothing to do with us’ from sponsors and partners who continue to plough hundreds of millions of dollars into an organisation under investigation by the FBI.
Never has our call for the reformation of a sporting body and our support for #NewFIFANow been so apt. I’d love to call it ‘planning’ but no-one, apart from the FBI saw this happening right now.
Now it has, there are a few more people who need to step up to the plate but nearly three weeks after writing personally to 8 of FIFA’s major sponsors and partners, we’re still waiting for them to show the leadership that is sorely lacking from FIFA.