Updated October 2nd 2015
So now McDonalds, Coca Cola, VISA and Budweiser have all called for Sepp Blatter to resign for the sake of FIFA and football. If ever anyone wants to define irony then they should quote the previous sentence.
FIFA is in its current turmoil because of one simple factor, the pursuit of maximising revenues. Making a healthy profit is one thing, but maximising the levels of income at the expense of every other consideration is another thing altogether, especially when the soul of what your selling is also sold. Sponsors pay more money for exclusivity rights. Sell our beer only and we’ll give you more cash. Make sure we’re the only unhealthy burger brand associated with your sport and we’ll fund all your lavish tournaments. And by association all your lavish accommodation, travel and lifestyles.
So FIFA got greedy, took the money, forgot what football was all about (the people’s game) and eventually and unsurprisingly where there are wads of money there are likely to be large scale corruption. The investigations will hopefully root out any corrupt officials and corrupt practices, but for those organisations that have been the root cause of the problems in the game being the ones to advocate change in the game, for the good of the game, is laughable.
As football fans (and players) we don’t need to have just one sugary soft drink, we don’t need to have just one credit card we can use to buy the only tasteless beer available, and we definitely don’t need the excessive presentations of the game that come with having too much money to spend on it, in order to play or watch the game we love. Yes, money is important to help develop football across the world and bring all nations up to as best a standard as possible, but five star hotels for officials, luxury cars to transport them from match to match, first class travel to visit potential World Cup hosts; all those things are not necessary and serve no purpose but to enhance the lifestyles of those involved in organising the game.
So VISA, Coca Cola, McDonalds and Budweiser, your demands for Blatter to go could easily be thrown back at you. Football doesn’t need you in the same way we don’t need Blatter and all the suspect FIFA officials. Why don’t you just disappear as well?
Whilst the football world rejoices in Sepp Blatter’s resignation, well fans and the media anyway, it might be prudent to understand the reasons behind his decision before putting up the bunting for the street parties. Just four days prior his resignation Sepp Blatter stood up at the FIFA Congress to thank its members for giving him the mandate to lead the organisation for the next four years. This was a defiant ‘there’s nothing on me’ Sepp Blatter, who was sure he was the right person to drive the necessary changes to reposition FIFA in the eyes of the footballing world. This wasn’t a person who was in any doubt; Sepp Blatter knew he was the right man and knew that FIFA members believed him to be, too.
So what happened since his re-election to turn a four year mandate into a four day mandate? Of course the full details of what caused this momentous turnaround may come out in the course of time, but there are likely to be only two scenarios that could have caused it: he was made aware that the FBI had discovered something about him that might suggest criminal malpractice, or the sponsors, the money men, made it clear to him that he should step down or else they would pull their funding.
It’s very telling that three main sponsors, Coca Cola, VISA and Adidas, all came out with favourable comments with regards to Sepp Blatter’s resignation. If they have applied pressure on him with the threat of withdrawing financial support for FIFA, then Blatter’s decision will be one of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Regardless of whether or not the FIFA president was corrupt, and he certainly believes he has acted within the rules, the trouble with football and FIFA is that money talks. It’s all about the money, never about the football. Even if FIFA was the cleanest organisation in the world the stench of money would still overpower it. The sponsors pull the (purse) strings.
Now is the time for FIFA, and the football world in general, to take a long hard look at itself. If football interests are at the heart of FIFA operations then take those billions in sponsorship money and re-distribute it amongst all member clubs and associations supporting grass roots football across the world; now that would be in the interests of football. Or forego sponsorship altogether. Forget lavish presentations of World Cup Finals. The fans don’t want that, the players don’t want it. All that ostentation, all that showing off, it’s only for the benefit of FIFA members and the sponsors. There is absolutely no need to pour billions of pounds into staging a World Cup tournament, and there is no need for it to have exclusive drinks, credit card of sportswear manufacturers.
But of course nothing will change whilst money rules the roost. Just look at the Premier League in England where a team that finished bottom can be rewarded with over £64million and more to come in the shape of parachute payments. For FIFA it will be ‘Welcome to the new boss, same as the old boss’. The FIFA apple is most likely rotten to the core, and even if there are people within the organisation with unquestionable ethics and morals, it will be difficult for their voices to be heard over and above an unhealthy soft drinks manufacturer dangling their dollars around … as long as FIFA does what it’s told, of course.