Yesterday (Wednesday) was the day the Brussels summit on Fifa’s future took place in the European Parliament and I’m as proud as I could possibly be that I, on behalf of SKINS, was involved.
As SKINS Chairman, I consider myself privileged to have played a part in a series of sporting causes in my time, but as write today, I reckon this is the biggest yet.
Fifa is the global governing body of the world’s most popular team sport, but it is a discredited organisation that the world recognises is in need of root and branch change. Today at the European parliament, we debated that change and committed global support for the organisation that SKINS and I are supporting, NEW Fifa Now.
I’m proud of the waves that we made with Change Cycling Now when we pulled together an influential group of legendary riders and global influencers to join a movement and enforce change to the Presidency of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
It was the first time in 40 years that a sitting President of an International Federation lost his job, attempting to be re-elected and Pat McQuaid did so because he was presiding (very poorly) over an administration that was short-changing the fans.
With Choose The Right Track in 2013, we joined forces with Canadian athlete Ben Johnson to further the cause of anti-doping in worldwide sport. A month after we completed a global tour with this notorious but reformed drugs cheat, the IOC announced an additional $20m of funding into anti-doping and the fight against match fixing and corruption. I’m not naive enough to think it was all because of us, but I believe we played a significant part in the debate.
And so to today.
Fifa’s untrustworthy leadership has resulted in allegations of corruption and constant scrutiny and ridicule of its alleged ‘commitment’ to transparency. Fifa remains in denial and the world has had enough. For us, as a company that repeatedly enforces the values of the True Spirit Of Competition, it means that New Fifa Now is a cause we passionately believe in and support because Fifa has to change.
And why wouldn’t a company with our background promote and attend an event such as this in Brussels and stand shoulder to shoulder with figures who know, far better than I do, what Fifa is REALLY like?
The Brussels summit was energised by the leadership of British MP Damian Collins. Damian is a politician who has witnessed dubious decision making when England – and several other worthy countries – were suspiciously disregarded by Fifa’s Executive Committee when the hosts for the World Cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022 were decided by ‘secret’ ballot.
Damian shared the stage with Lord David Triesman, who was England’s Bid Chairman when the process began and also with Bonita Mersiades, a strong, determined Australian lady who was ousted as the Australian Bid’s Head of Corporate and Public Affairs because she had the temerity to question activities that appeared to be both dubious and potentially corrupt. The views of Bonita and Lord Triesman on Fifa’s failure to address the subsequent allegations of corruption within both the bidding and voting processes were fascinating and intriguing.
Current Fifa President, Sepp Blatter has been in office since 1998 and he is now standing for a fifth term. The result will be known in May but such has been his leadership, the identity of the winner will not, in itself, be enough to pave the way to change – whoever wins.
Whoever is elected has a rocky road to travel and one of Mr. Blatter’s challengers, Jerome Champagne was with us in Brussels too. In the interests of the sort of transparency we seek, he was afforded a platform to discuss his view, his hopes and his promises.
There is no doubt that Fifa needs to change.
It needs an independent authority to oversee guaranteed reform. It is too late for Fifa to be trusted to do it themselves. It needs unequivocal resolution to the current inquiries around institutional corruption and it needs sponsors to stand firm and defend their own integrity by telling Fifa enough is enough through influence via the cheque book.
SKINS is not a Fifa sponsor (more about that soon!) but we are standing as advocates to change a sport we have no direct commercial involvement in. Football can be returned to clear, fair and transparent governance – it just needs a will from people prepared to confront the issues, not sit in a locked, five star room with their heads shoved right up their own backsides.
Later this week and after the events of Brussels, SKINS will be announcing a series of initiatives aimed at engaging the football public in support of New Fifa Now. You can find out more at www.newfifanow.org where you can sign up with your support and join our social media platforms.
Please give it a visit because Fifa needs to change.