Money and soccer have not been far from the news over the past month, with FIFA’s long-rumoured corruption finally exposed. For most people, soccer fans or not, it is heartening to see the crooks who lined their pockets hopefully being brought to book. The scale and audacity of the bribery is astonishing. Just take the millions supposedly sent to support football in Trinidad and Tobago that allegedly ended up in the pockets of former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner. Added together it could probably have funded multiple stadiums the size of Wembley, for a country with a similar population to Glasgow.
However, the tangled web of corruption, ongoing investigations, and the fact that current FIFA president Sepp Blatter has gone back and forth about stepping down shows that the scandal will not be over anytime soon.
FIFA needs to rebuild its Reputation, but this is not going to be easy – after all, the next two World Cups have already been awarded to Russia and Qatar making it difficult for the organization to simply draw a line in the sand and begin the bidding process again, without upsetting the potential hosts.
So from a PR perspective, what can FIFA do to change its reputation? I’d say there are four things it needs to look at:
- Bring in independent experts The public perception is that FIFA needs root and branch reform – and that existing senior management are not the right people to do this. It needs to bring in a team of independent experts who understand governance and compliance to create a completely new structure for the organization and everything it does. This can then be voted on by delegates at the conference, but should follow external best practice, rather than simply tweaking existing ways of doing business.
- All senior remuneration to be transparent MPs have to publically declare all of their outside financial interests and have a fixed salary. The same should be true of senior FIFA officials, allowing them to be scrutinized by the media and any wrongdoing brought to light. After all, the fact that ex-FIFA vice president Chuck Blazer spent nearly £4,000 per month renting a flat for his cats should have led to questions about exactly how much he was earning. Additionally, money needs to be shared more equitably – particularly with countries actually hosting the World Cup – so that it doesn’t cost them billions for little reward.
- Bring in new blood Soccer players are idolized around the world – yet FIFA is seen as broadly being run by stuffy bureaucrats. More current and recently retired soccer veterans need to be involved in FIFA, particularly in its initiatives to spread grassroots soccer around the world. In the same way that the UN uses celebrities as goodwill ambassadors, so should FIFA. This would both provide a stronger link to the game itself and highlight positive initiatives.
- Move HQ Switzerland is the home of many international sporting governing bodies, from cycling to the Olympic movement. But in many people’s minds it is also a country known for secretive private banks, allegedly happy to help with tax evasion. If FIFA is serious about improving global soccer, it should move its HQ from Switzerland to somewhere more in keeping with a new, open culture. It could follow the lead of the UN and open up in New York or be more daring and move to Africa or Asia. That would have the added advantage of helping with a fresh start, with new staff, a new office and new ways of working. Yes, it would be expensive, but FIFA has the money and it would send a strong signal to the world.
Rebuilding FIFA’s reputation will take years, but as the International Olympic Committee has shown, strong leadership, transparency and a desire for change eventually translates into major improvements.
The public relations task starts now – and is going to last for a lot longer than 90 minutes.
Do you have any suggestions or comments on how FIFA can repair its reputation? Discuss
Filed under: Reputation Management Tagged: FIFA, PR, public relations, Reputation Management, Sepp Blatter