Sponsors need to stand up to FIFA

FIFA was thrown into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons once again last week, with news that several high ranking officials were arrested in the early hours of last Wednesday morning following a corruption investigation spanning 24 years.

But now, everyone involved in the world game, from the fans of the sport at grass roots level, to the governing bodies of Europe’s elite leagues, are all asking, why has it taken so long?

Allegations of corruption, vote tampering and bribery have been rife for many years and fans of the game are no doubt fed up with the current administration.

Former Australian Football Executive Bonita Mersiades explained the corruption she saw first-hand when Australia launched its bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup when she spoke to SEN’s Morning Glory last Friday morning.

“My concern always was about the whole bidding process, anyone who spends too much time around FIFA knows that this is not an organisation that does business in a way that you would normally want to do business,” Mersiades, a proud publisher with Interplay Media, said.

“We were almost running two bids, the one that was a public one where we would’ve hosted a fantastic World Cup if it was judged on its merits, and another one where there were these deals, counter-deals, double-deals and all these other things that go on in the murky world of FIFA.

“Jack Warner the former president of this region of football was right in the centre of that, for reasons which are not entirely clear, one of our international consultants recommended that the Australian bid should give half a million dollars to the upgrade of a stadium in Trinidad and Tobago.

“That stadium was owned by Jack Warner and the money ended up in his personal bank account, and that was entirely what the whole system was vulnerable to.”

Had Blatter remained in power following the FIFA presidential elections on Monday morning, its sponsors would have faced a difficult decision. Proceed with their sponsorship agreement, worth astronomical amounts of money, or walk away from lucrative deals and take a stand against a corrupt governing body.

Nike faced a similar conundrum when golfing great Tiger Woods’ sex scandal broke in late 2009. The once clean cut man of golf was now in ruins. Nike decided to stick by their man, and rightly so. Woods admitted to infidelity with countless women, including several prostitutes.

What Nike did, which must be applauded, was realise that Tiger Woods is human. He is a fantastic golfer, but that does not make him immune to making mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes and unfortunately we have to live with them.

Where these two scenarios differ, is quite clear. One is a complex web of corruption, bribery and illegal practices and the other was one man’s lie to his wife.

Now that Sepp Blatter has finally resigned, sponsors and advertisers must finally play hard ball.

With the head of the snake gone, FIFA must now work to repair the diseased culture of world football’s governing body.

If the culture of FIFA does not improve, and allegations of corruption and bribery continue, then sponsors must walk away to ensure those responsible are held accountable.

Blatter has claimed innocence throughout his tenure; however it is completely inconceivable that the head of the organisation was completely clueless when his fellow high ranking officials headed an intricate web of deceit and corruption.

Blatter must surely have been privy to what was going on; perhaps he was even a part of it.

However, he has ultimately re-signed, but seemingly only after it appeared the FBI was closing in on him.

Whistle blower and former FIFA executive Chuck Blazer declared yesterday that he took bribes in return for votes in the lead up to the 1998 and 2010 World Cup.

Blatter was elected to the presidency just two days prior to the commencement of the 1998 World Cup.

The voting for World Cups is completed some eight to 12 years prior to the tournaments, meaning for almost 30 years, well before that before Blatter’s reign, corruption has been rife.

Blatter may simply have been a man of circumstance, hell bent of trying to keep up with others around him.

This does not excuse him of what he may have been a part of, or even ignorant to. However, it exposes a bigger issue; that deceit and under the table dealings are deeply embeded in the culture of FIFA and have been for some time.

The best way forward for FIFA is un-clear, however, sponsors have an enormous part to play in ensuring that the sport once again has a corruption-free governing body.

If sponsors threaten to walk away from the governing body, then it will go a long way to convincing FIFA to clean up its act.