Blatter’s demeanour at last night’s press conference was clearly one of defiance – it seems he really is blind to the mess the world governing body is in. Mind you, if you watch again withe sound turned down (1), his body language is less self-confident – the ceaseless paper shuffling, and constantly tweaking the pair of microphones in front to him as if a pair of nipples had suddenly been thrust at him in some seedy nightclub.
The chances then of some serious reform of FIFA on his about-to-be-extended-unopposed watch are as remote as ever. He is only vulnerable to pressure from outside stakeholders such as broadcasters and sponsors. Broadcasters are unlikely to bother too much – the World Cup will be watched as eagerly by fans whether he or Caligula’s horse is in charge of FIFA. Sponsors may yet prove more difficult to accommodate however, and there are already mumblings (2). Sponsoring is not merely a questioning of gaining exposure for your brand – it only works effectively if there are shared brand values. Interestingly, Coca Cola list their shared company values as ‘Leadership, Passion, Integrity, Accountability, Collaboration, Innovation, and Quality‘ (3). It’s hard to see that the present circumstances are helping Coca Cola present their values of leadership, integrity and accountability much. Adidas too will not be particularly happy bunnies this morning – they state on their webpage for Vision and Governance: “But leadership is not only about results, it is also about how success is achieved. We are accountable for the way we do business… We are committed to good governance“. Not a great deal of brand synergy going on there at the moment either.
The one thing that can be said of Blatter is that he is a survivor. Allegations that he acted corruptly date back at least to 2002. As Nick Harris reported in The Independent nine years ago: “Sepp Blatter was yesterday accused by 11 senior Fifa colleagues of trying to buy votes to secure his re-election as president of football’s world governing body. The dramatic move could end the 66-year-old’s long career in the game. In an unprecedented move in Fifa’s 98-year history, Blatter became the subject of a formal legal complaint filed in the Swiss courts by five Fifa vice-presidents and six other Fifa executive committee members.” (4) Maybe we can’t expect too much in the way of sponsorship withdrawal as these allegation haven’t stopped them.
Blatter does have an Achilles heel nonetheless. FIFA remains under investigation by Swiss federal authorities (5), as revealed by Matt Scott of The Guardian. The Swiss may be more fussy than Adidas and Coca Cola when it comes to seeing their national ‘brand’ under threat. Exemption from anti-corruption legislation for FIFA may well be lifted, especially as it applies to ‘not for profit’ organisations, an increasingly badly-fitting description for a body with reserves of almost three-quarters of a billion pounds (6).
One way or another, we shouldn’t expect a swift cleaning of the Augean stables, especially as Blatter is no Hercules.