Mis-Communicator of the Week: Fifa
18th November 2014
A quick tour through history brings to mind a succession of powerful elites who allowed power to corrupt their world leading to hubris and then ruin. From English history the most famous is Charles I who believed in the Divine Right of Kings to rule England, Scotland and Ireland. Charles though faced major challenges from the English Parliament and many of his subjects who felt him remote, out of touch, corrupt and arrogant. These tensions multiplied and led to the English Civil War and the eventual execution of Charles for treason.
While the many strands of discontent with the reign of Charles I are complex, at their core is his refusal to recognise his faults and to change his ways to match the expectations of his subjects. While his behaviour was untenable in the 17th century there are still individuals and organisations who believe they can act like this 350 years later.
While football is perhaps the only true world sport, a global star in its own right, the sport's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or Fifa, is increasingly a toxic brand. This week Fifa published a summary of an internal investigation into alleged corruption surrounding the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The winning bids from Russia and Qatar were cleared of all wrong-doing while others, including the bid from England were heavily criticised. What soon became clear though was that, while Fifa tried to draw a line under the saga, the lawyer tasked with undertaking the investigation had no confidence in the report. It was rightly called a “whitewash” and it is hoped the full report could be published. This is unlikely to happen.
Allegations including payments to Fifa board members and the ethics of the winning bids remain unanswered. A culture of fear and favours surrounds Fifa and its president Sepp Blatter but demand for change has dwindled before and Blatter will attempt to ride out the storm as he has previously.
Fifa as an organisation is not in touch with those who play the sport it governs and seem content to live by different rules too. While there has long been disquiet with the way Fifa operates, this past week has highlighted once again its lack of transparency is designed to protect Fifa’s leadership at the expense of those who play and support football. It is difficult to believe that Fifa’s brand could become anymore damaged but this week it has achieved that remarkable feat. This is why Fifa is my Mis-Communicator of the Week.