The Beautiful Game

May 6, 2015

I don’t think I can write this bulletin without commenting on the arrest of the FIFA officials. I can admit when I heard about the arrests yesterday I did have a certain feeling of joy. There have been so many allegations of corruption swirling round the organisation but so far it has been ignored and it seems they have been ‘getting away with it’. Even when the American Lawyer, Michael Garcia, produced a report on the corruption within FIFA it was never published and the executive summary he claimed didn’t summarise the report and had been substantially altered. I personally feel the alleged corruption is true and that the officials have been getting away with corrupt practices for years. I may be wrong!

For me there are a couple of obvious lessons from this case.

Firstly Sebb Blater provides a very good example of how to ignore public opinion and carry on regardless. Every time there are allegations of corruption he says that they are nothing to do with him, the issues will be addressed and those found wrongdoing will be punished. He then does nothing. 

There are three things in his favour which have caused him to survive so many scandals. Firstly football is a global, glorious brand which has a very strong draw for sponsors but is also loved and played by millions around the world. People and organisation want to be associated with the game and so this can lead to them turning a blind eye to wrongdoings at the top. The second item in his favour is he and FIFA are not beholden to any external scrutiny so they have no shareholders, regulators, voters or customers who can force change on the organisation. The third item is when corruption within an organisation becomes epidemic, nobody wants change. All those involved are bound together and it is not in any way in their interest for the organisation to change.

Chief Executive Arjun Seth has in a similar way come out fighting when his company Protein World launched a UK poster campaign featuring women in bikinis with the slogan ‘is your body beach ready’. Instead of cancelling his campaign in response to mass campaigns against the adverts, he said he would only take notice of a petition against the adverts if a million people signed it. I am not sure of the ownership of the company but if it is privately owned and there is a good market for the products why should he listen to those that complain? In actual fact the publicity may be good for the company and those complaining may never buy the product so there is not much to lose. Bad publicity and loss of reputation doesn’t always cause senior managers to resign if they don’t want to, especially if there is nobody to force them out.

For your organisation, when looking at your stakeholders it may be worth doing a review of the key influencers who could impose change on your organisation if they claim they have lost faith in your senior management. So that during an incident you can monitor their attitude and ensure that you meet their requirements.

My second point is a continuance from last week’s point ‘you can outsource the activity but not the risk’. If you partner with or sponsor an organisation such as FIFA, you really have to do your due diligence to ensure that if there is wrongdoing by the organisation your brand is not damaged by the association. If the corruption allegations are true, then many of the major worldwide brands giving money to FIFA will be damaged by the scandal. Have they turned a blind eye to the allegations which have been around for a long time in order to gain competitive advantage of being associated with the footballs global brand? So again, which organisations are your organisations sponsoring, has sufficient due diligence been done, are you monitoring their media profile and have you looked at the possible risks of being associated with them? 

 We live in interesting times and I will be watching how this unfolds………

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