It’s been a busy but productive week!
The FIFA summit in Brussels I spoke of in my last blog achieved exactly what we all wanted of it – progressive debate and rigorous challenge of FIFA, its President and its indisputable appalling methods. I’m very pleased that SKINS supported another genuine cause that sees fairness and integrity at the heart of its sporting intentions.
The summit, organised in conjunction with British MP Damian Collins and the former Director of Public Affairs for Australia’s World Cup Bid Bonita Mersiades, was effectively the first meeting of the ‘#NewFIFANow’ movement. FIFA Presidential candidate Jerome Champagne was there as a speaker, as was former Chairman of England’s World Cup Bid, Lord David Triesman. Another potential Presidential candidate, Harold Mayne-Nicholls flew over from Chile specifically to attend as well. I presented the ethical case for greater demands of better governance by sponsors. It was a tremendous event and I’m indebted to those who contributed and to the huge mass of media who attended and reported.
The discussion it generated has resonated around the world, as indeed has SKINS’ own supporting campaign; we launched the first ever ‘Official Non-Sponsorship’ of FIFA two days later. Those of you who have seen it will understand that it’s a tongue-in-cheek campaign with a serious message at its centre – to support #NewFIFANow and rally behind the growing call for serious, long-term reform to the way FIFA governs world football.
Please take a minute to visit www.officialnonsponsor.com and www.newFIFAnow.org where I’d ask you to add your support. You may also have a little giggle at some of the elements we’ve put in place such as the brand guidelines or an Ebay auction to buy FIFA silence and, by way of a contrast to FIFA’s secretive approach to anything they do, a series of (non-available) ‘transparent’ SKINS branded products.
Of course, there are many in the world who believe that trying to change the way FIFA does things is an automatic losing brief. My view, as you’d probably expect, is rather different.
I take strength from the campaign we delivered to help effect change in World Cycling and I take encouragement from the anti-doping message we took around the world that preceded the IOC’s decision to tackle the subject even harder.
More to the point, look at this weekend’s FA Cup football matches in England which produced a series of upsets in the David and Goliath mould. No-one gave Bradford City a chance against mighty Chelsea. On paper, it wasn’t even worth the team from England’s third tier competition turning up for a match away to one which is currently five points clear at the top of the English Premier League.
For those who don’t know, Chelsea cruised into an expected 2-0 lead, before Bradford scored FOUR TIMES WITHOUT REPLY and knocked Chelsea out of the Cup. Now that’s the beauty of fair, competitive sport and more specifically, it’s the beauty of football. It’s also a perfect illustration of why we at SKINS were involved in the Brussels summit and why we’re keeping up the pace with the Official Non-Sponsor campaign.
As we showed with the UCI, if you don’t turn up to play, you never have a chance to beat the big guys.
Our Official Non-Sponsor activity has coincided with news this week of FIFA losing a series of big name sponsors. Castrol, Continental Tyres and Johnson & Johnson are not renewing their deals and that news follows similar decisions from Sony and Emirates. It’s not a great back drop for FIFA President, Sepp Blatter to conduct his campaign for re-election as President is it? To have 5 of 10 sponsors refuse to renew begs the question as to why; unfortunately they have not exactly been forthcoming with explanations.
The Presidential vote takes place in May and the voice of dissent is getting louder and louder. Until now Mr. Blatter has been deaf to the noise but he may just have to listen a little more carefully over the next four months. Even if we do not achieve his defeat at the elections, we may just succeed in forcing some element of reform that he would previously not have done. That in itself would be some sort of victory.
One of the aims of our Official Non-Sponsor campaign is for the ‘real’ sponsors of FIFA to appreciate the privileged position they occupy and understand that their money continues to enable those at FIFA and their actions. Our aim is not to have sponsors walk away but to have them pressure Sepp Blatter and FIFA until there is a reasonable level of governance in the organisation, to be run not unlike any other large corporate, quasi-government institution or NGO.
The companies previously mentioned have sent out a huge corporate signal and I’m hoping it’s the start of something more. Now is the time to mount a global public challenge of an organisation swamped in allegations of corruption, botched (or, should I say non-existent) internal investigations and general mis-management . FIFA needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century where good governance is concerned. This is not about taking money out of the sport and bringing FIFA down, it’s about creating a platform for a stronger and ethical sport in the future.
Throughout this week, we’ve had many, many messages of support and I thank everyone who’s sent them. One from the U.S. included a quote from Albert Einstein in the footnote which sums it all perfectly:
“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”
I hope you’ll add your voice to the global call for change at the heart of FIFA. It simply has to happen.