The 2014 World Cup is under way in Brazil. For millions of football fans, from all over the world, this is the highpoint of their sporting calendar.
While the teams are playing, work has already begun on the stadia in Qatar which has won the bid to host the competition in 2022. When the winner was announced, eyebrows were raised in many quarters and the question on people’s lips was “How the hell did they do that?” Qatar has no footballing tradition and it’s nightmarishly hot; so much so that players’ lives could be put at risk by being expected to play in such temperatures.
The suspicion at the time was that someone had taken a ‘bung”, the footballing term for bribe. Now, amidst allegations that the play-maker behind the bid made a series of large private payments to officials of Fifa, football’s governing body, it seems that those suspicions were correct. The claims have been made after The Sunday Times were handed millions of documents by a whistle-blower. The story has since made headlines across the world.
Some of its main partners, namely Adidas, Sony, and Visa, are, understandably, alarmed by the furore. Adidas are reported to have said: “The negative tenor of the public debate around Fifa at the moment is neither good for football nor for Fifa and its partners,” Clearly these organisations are questioning whether they want their brands to be associated with another, which, in the public’s mind, is damaged.
Fifa claims itself to be ‘For the Game. For the World.’ That’s a laudable statement. But is it a hollow one? So far Sepp Blatter, Fifa’s head, has shrugged off the affair after branding the claims ‘racist’ and is offering business as usual. In doing so he seems to be one of the breed of business leaders who still believes that they control the conversations around their brands instead of their customers. He’s wrong about that. And misguided.
Fifa, it seems, is suffering from a corrosive disease. It may have been there for years but now the symptoms are visible to everyone.
It’s as if the brand is decaying from the inside out. What do you think?