Thursday, May 28, 2015

FIFA - a reputation in ruins?

It's been an open secret for years that football's world governing body, FIFA, has long been a hotbed of corruption. The award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country with no football heritage, where it's hot enough in the summer to fry eggs on the pavement, raised more than a few eyebrows. 

Of course, Sepp Blatter, the dear leader, has distanced himself from the latest, and all previous, corruption allegations. I'm not suggesting for a moment that he is criminally liable, but he has been on the scene of the crime for a very long time. He's presided over the debacle, and has therefore at the very least been incompetent and negligent. It's time for him to retire.

However, he has been Machiavellian in his use of FIFA's largesse to the smaller nations, realising that The Cook Islands (population 24,000) has the same number of votes as the USA, and is much easier to get onside with grants for football development. He's not only given money, but also power to many countries who adore him for it.

The departure of Mr Blatter would deal with one major complaint, at least from Europe and North America. But the problem runs much deeper. Untangling the FIFA web of payments, favours, and even bribes will take months or years. I wonder if FIFA can ever be made fit for purpose?

The real question though, is how much does it matter to the sponsors? They hold the key. If global corporations decide that their reputations are being damaged by association with FIFA, they will move their funding elsewhere. That's a big "if" too. The World Cup, for all its problems, is still a huge global event, and most people are more interested in the tournament itself rather than how it came to be held in an unexpected venue. Only if FIFA implodes will change occur.

My guess is that Mr Blatter, even if re-elected, won't see out his term. He may resign, or be forced out. In the longer term though, I suspect the task of cleaning out the filth from the Augean Stables at FIFA is something that even Hercules couldn't accomplish overnight.

Photo credit: Creative Commons 

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