FIFA To Kiss And Make Up

Apparently Henry Kissinger has been asked by the unchallenged and re-elected President, Sepp Blatter (@SeppBlatter), to clean up FIFA in the wake of the recent allegations of corruption.

In my humble opinion there are more than a couple of similarities between FIFA’s shenanigans and many of the financial institutions exposed by the economic troubles of recent years. Hubris definitely, and both supported because the powers-that-be believing they are needed for a common good. Some banks should have been allowed to fail by governments and those who voted for Mr Blatter have fallen into the same trap. Football fans deserve better.

The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins penned a prickly but accurate article on Tuesday that pretty much outlines the reality of the political context of unfortunately too many sporting organisations.

If FIFA was a horse it would probably be shot. Like many other sporting organisations it survives not because of great management but the passion of millions of supporters around the world parting with hard-earned cash to enjoy the entertainment, and that is all it is; entertainment.

Why is everybody so surprised that FIFA is corrupt? For the sake of crystal clear clarity, professional sport is not about sporting excellence anymore, if it ever was. Cuba Gooding Jnr. said it best, “Show me the money” and in this case, its about power.

Talking of money and FIFA’s roughly £4 billion in revenue every four years (because of the cycle of World Cups), apart from ticket sales another huge income stream is via commercial partners. Why have only four of the six FIFA partners voiced their concerns? Why have  Sony and Hyundai / Kia Motors remained silent? Two yellow cards I think for unsportsmanlike like conduct.

I spent some time today catching up somebody I coached one-to-one as a 9 year old (now nearly 20 and making me feel ancient) to help protect him from the butchery that professional football Academies and Centres of Excellence can be to the 99& of young players that don’t make the big time. As a natural athlete and talented footballer Sam Coulter was courted by many professional clubs, as are millions of young children are every year in search of emerging assets to invest in. Sam’s story is sadly not uncommon, being passed from pillar to post by a series of Billy Big Time coaches and managers more intent in enjoying the merest glimmer of the football limelight than supporting emotionally vulnerable children they know probably won’t earn a living from the game.

At another end of the spectrum I’ve sat through international committee meetings and sat open-mouthed aghast at the sheer childishness of sporting politics played out between nations. I’ve watched  individuals suddenly yet temporarily lose the ability to understand other languages to bludgeon painfully comedic rule changes at World Championships.

Football isn’t perfect, no matter how good the Nike adverts are, and we don’t really expect it to be but FIFA is at best blasé about its approach to ethics in business and all the way down to the day to day realities of grassroots football.

The whole embarrassing farce reminds me of Del Boy with a few footballs in his yellow van. As the ex-President of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders, an organisation formed to protest at “women replacing suspender belts with pantyhose”, Mr Blatter may find a market for a another use of pantyhose as headgear.

The beautiful game is looking pretty ugly at the moment. How do we clean it up and who should replace Sepp Blatter? Alan Sugar, Ian Holloway, Michel Platini, Del Boy or somebody else?

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