Stopping FIFA’s Runaway Gravy Train – Steven Falk

By iSportconnect | June 10, 2014

The litany of alleged scandals at football’s world governing body FIFA continues to grow in line with the increasing revenue pouring into its coffers from lucrative media rights deals and corporate sponsorships.

Bribery, vote rigging and corruption seem to be standing items on the agenda of the patriarchs of the ‘football family’, a discredited and dysfunctional body with a rap sheet stretching from ISL to Qatar.

But FIFA dismisses the outrage of each fresh revelation with the insouciance of the first family of crime contemplating its latest ASBO. Surely it is time for a sterner sanction, but how can Mr.Blatter and his henchmen be brought to book when they consider themselves accountable to no one but themselves?

The good news is that a precedent exists for changing the unacceptable culture and behavior of the self-appointed petty potentates of football administration.

After the debacle of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, the US Senate threatened that US companies would face prohibition from engaging in sponsorship relationships with any part of the Olympic movement unless all corruption was eradicated and processes put in place to ensure it could not recur. The effect was immediate and little has been heard to damage the integrity of the International Olympic Committee since that time.

Two factors militate against the same solution being applied to FIFA. First, the US could exert both moral authority as host country and financial muscle as the largest contributor to the media rights auction. In addition, eight of the ten leading IOC sponsors in 2002 were US companies and the financial damage to the IOC from their withdrawal would have been catastrophic.

Here lies the difference between the Olympic movement and football. The US audience for the World Cup is not dominant while only two of FIFA’s current top six sponsors are US companies.

Collective action by national governments with the power and moral authority to demand change is unlikely given the prestige and economic benefits that accrue from staging the World Cup finals. This leaves the Swiss as host nation to FIFA or the corporate sponsors themselves as the only entities able to insist upon change and with the financial power to enforce it.

It remains to be seen if they can be persuaded to act or if the politics of self-interest will continue to prevail and enable the FIFA gravy train to maintain its runaway course.

Steven Falk is director of Star Sports Marketing a consultancy providing advice on sponsorship activation, CRM, brand and affinity marketing. You can follow him on Twitter @steven_falk

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