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Is Fifa decaying from the inside out?

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.

FIFA-logo

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?

10 Comments

  1. FIFA’s brand has been long tarnished. I’m only hoping that the current furore will be as Salt Lake City was for the IOC and a serious overhaul of the voting procedure will be instigated. I’m not holding my breath though. I do find it quite ironic that it will likely be the sponsors that will instigate change though.

    • Tim Masters
      Tim Masters

      Dave and Mike

      Thanks for your comments. I don’t follow football these days. The last time I watched a game live was back in the 1970s so I know little about the modern game. I watch it very occasionally on tv, and I’ve only ever been vaguely aware of Fifa whenever World Cup draws have been made and have heard some of the opinions about whether Group A is better than B or whatever. I only really took notice when Qatar won the bid and there was talk in the press about the probity of the process. It’s only been recently, with the new revelations in the media, that I’ve developed a better realisation of what Fifa is. Or rather what it isn’t.

      I hope it does clean up its act and I think your comment Mike about the likelihood of the sponsors being the catalyst for change, is a particularly good one. They’re key to Fifa’s survival after all and if they decide it has zero credibility they’ll desert in droves.

  2. Paul Masters

    I’m not a great follower of football, so haven’t paid too much attention to the whole Fifa scandal. Having said that, The Sunday Times gave it acres of coverage yesterday, so it can’t be avoided. I agree that it is incredibly damaging to the Fifa brand (and those brands it’s associated with) but I do wonder how important it is to the average football fan who’s probably focusing all his or her energy on their club’s weekly performance during the season and their country’s performance at the moment? I’m not saying the Fifa scandal isn’t of interest to them but it is potentially quite removed from them, which might explain Sepp Blatter’s misguided reaction.

    Another area that is interesting is the lack of excitement around the World Cup this time. Perhaps we all realise that England’s tenure won’t be long again or the country’s saving its energy in case it is…

    • Tim Masters
      Tim Masters

      Hi Paul

      It was the Sunday Times that first alerted me to the corruption allegations; they’ve really got their teeth into the story.

      Interesting thought about the lack of enthusiasm among marketers this year. You could be right when you suggest that maybe they’re waiting to see how England get on before they do any World Cup-type promotion. But seeing as England have lost their first game already, there may not be much!

  3. Mick Merrick

    Sepp Blatter is like the Robert Mugabe of international football – everyone know’s that something has been very wrong within FIFA for many years, everyone knows who is responsible but nobody has the courage / guts / wherewithal to do anything about it.

    • Tim Masters
      Tim Masters

      That’s a great description Mick; “the Robert Mugabe of International football’. I read at the weekend that an ex-Fifa insider has openly described Mr Blatter as, among other things, “Greedy and manipulative.” So maybe there are stirrings of courage within the organisation. Perhaps, now that the Qatar deal has been exposed, this is Fifa’s “Arab Spring” moment?

  4. Morgan Stewart

    The game of football has been spoiled by money. I’m all for people earning good money but when it harms your club’s balance sheet something is definitely wrong.

    I think Sepp Blatter needs to go. There has been the smell of corruption around him for a long time.

  5. Ben

    You suspect such things go on but with the right PR massaging the noise dies down and these “nasty” stories go away. In this case it’s great that someone was strong enough to do the right thing.

    Good article, thanks tim.

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