Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of Scoop.it! Football Finance

Posts Tagged ‘FIFA’

A not quite 24 carat golden age of football ethics?

Posted by John Beech on November 16, 2011

Received wisdom seems to be that, once the baton of running FIFA was passed on from safe and reliable English hands, there was a rapid descent into a quagmire of unethical goings on.  Even Uncle Sepp himself now admits that FIFA “has had a rough time of late” and concedes that there is now “the need for change and the urgent need for sweeping reforms” (1).  He concludes “FIFA remains committed to walking the walk and won’t get stuck in solely talking the talk. By December, this will become clear for all to see. Until then, I invite everybody to bear with us so that we can clean house and come back to the public with facts that allow FIFA to enter a new decade of doing business. And never again revert to doing “business as usual”.”  Whether he himself decides to ‘walk the walk’ is anybody’s guess.

I’m just back from a work trip and have been reading en route Sir Stanley Rous’s autobiography Football Worlds, published in 1978, a couple of years after he had been replaced as FIFA’s President by João Havelange.  A couple of passages particularly caught my eye as they reveal that back then all was not 100% squeaky clean.  Consider this first quote:

In Nasser’s day I was once present to watch a game there when the Sudan played Egypt in the final of a competition.  My host was General Mostafa, later Vice-President of FIFA, and an enthusiastic crowd of 110,000 worked themselves to a pitch of excitement when the winner had to be drawn by lot after the game had ended with the scores level.  The referee was blindfolded before making the draw, and a great roar of cheers greeted his pulling out the slip with Egypt on it.

When the General returned from the field I congratulated him on the luck of the draw.  He replied that there was no luck involved as, by agreement, both pieces of paper had Egypt written on them.  He may have been joking, but the Sudanese officials showed no sign of disappointment and the result made the day for Nasser and the spectators.

This, for some reason, brought to mind a different recent occasion when, rather than two identical slips of paper, a voting card had only one choice on it.

Sir Stanley was not averse to telling a story against himself.  He writes this from his days refereeing, concerning a game between Millwall and Charlton:

At a crucial point in the game I saw a defender’s hand fist the ball away in a goalmouth melee.  As I blew the whistle for a penalty the players untangled themselves and looked at me in surprise.  It was then that I realised that it was the goalkeeper, not a full-back, who had punched the ball.  So I walked past the penalty spot, past the goalposts, to the edge of the crowd and called at the top of my voice: ‘If the man with the whistle blows it again I will have him removed.’  Then I restarted the game by dropping the ball and the mistake was retrieved without disaster.

A more innocent age perhaps, or perhaps not, than the kind of confessions that can appear in autobiographies today (2) – a reference to Matt Le Tissier, to save you clicking through.

Overall, one would have to conclude that, compared to today’s ills, it was generally a much more ethical football scene, but not some Halcyon era of perfect ethics.

Posted in Ethics, FIFA, Governance, History | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

A hint of significant change at FIFA?

Posted by John Beech on October 8, 2011

Well, don’t hold your breath, but there is just a possibility.

The conferences I usually attend are for academics, and any confrontation is usually so subtle that it needs to be decoded.  Which is one reason I particularly enjoy the two-yearly Play the Game conferences, with their exciting mix of investigative journalists, academics and sports practitioners.  The latter group normally does not include anyone from FIFA, but the conference which has just finished in Köln proved to be a notable exception.  The Play the Game organisation, for those unfamiliar with it, describes itself as “an international conference and communication initiative aiming to strengthen the ethical foundation of sport and promote democracy, transparency and freedom of expression in sport” (1).

Sepp Blatter had been invited, but with stunning predictability he turned the invitation down “due to a great amount of similar demands” (2).  If he meant demands that he face his critics over the way FIFA is mismanaged, that’s probably understandable.

On Thursday, however, in a joint session with presentations by the indominatable Andrew Jennings, long-time scourge of FIFA, and his opposite number in Germany, Jens Weinreich, who should be in the audience but Walter di Georgio, FIFA’s newly appointed Director of Communications (now there’s a job I wouldn’t want!), sitting just two rows behind me.

Confrontation was inevitable, especially when Jennings, produced a list of what he said was 167 bribes recorded by the Zug Prosecutor’s office, which he (Jennings) is fighting to get published (3).  Di Gregorio took understandable exception to Jennings’s assertion that FIFA had the classic characteristics of a Mafia family.  Worse was to come when Jennings and di Georgio clashed over the reason for Jennings being banned by FIFA from its press conferences; this concluded with Jennings shouting “Liar!” from the podium.

It will be interesting to see whether di Georgio comes good on his offer to speak to the next Play the Game conference in 2013.  Apart from anything else, he will no doubt have to survive a post-conference debriefing with Blatter, which I’d love to be a fly-on-the-wall at!  Assuming Jennings is finally successful in publishing the Zug court documents – there is a slow Swiss legal process to go through yet – we will have to see whether Blatter survives.

Among other football-related topics discussed at the conference was a two-hour session entitled Financial fair play, or football’s foolish plan, chaired by Supporters Direct Europe’s Antonia Hagemann.  Speakers were, in order, Sefton Perry (UEFA’s Benchmarking Manger for Club Licensing), Professor Stefan Szymanski, myself, and Christian Müller (until recently the Chief Financial Officer of the German Football Association [DFL]).  The four presentations and the following discussion can be viewed here, following an incongruous 30 seconds beer advertisement.  My own contribution is at about 40 minutes in.

The final session of the conference turned to a key issue for all sports today, that of ‘quis custodiet ipsos custodies?‘ or ‘who guards the guardians?’.  The outcome was a call to the IOC to gather all stakeholders to draft a code for good governance in sport (4).  While I welcome such a move in general, I have a problem with it being under the auspices of the IOC.  How likely is this to find a positive response from ‘barely Olympic sports’ such as football and tennis, and non-Olympic sports such as F1, the rugby codes, North American sports and golf?  At the heart of this is the fact that the major professional sports do not fit well with the sports already engaged with the IOC.  And of course there is, for English football, the whole ‘Home Nations’ issue, an already touchy subject.

Posted in FIFA, Governance, UEFA | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Just a quickie…

Posted by John Beech on July 24, 2011

… before I head off for two weeks holiday.

It’s hard to know what to make of the life-time ban that FIFA’s Ethics Committee have handed out to Mohammed Bin Hammam (1).  To my mind, it’s a bit like the PG Tips Chimps Etiquette Committee handing out a life-long ban for bad table manners.  Unlike Jack Warner’s threatened tsunami, I suspect this will have legs, with a likely visit to CAS (2).

I’m heading off, sans laptop, so will not be blogging or moderating comments for two weeks.  I’d hoped to have a couple of postings – one on how fans were viewed in the context of fan ownership in the sixties, and one on a non-league club and its long-running saga of financial issues – but I’m afraid these will have to wait.  Meanwhile, best wishes to all readers, especially those who are also starting a fortnight’s holiday.

Posted in Ethics, FIFA | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Sepp Blatter’s already legendary Jim Callaghan impersonation

Posted by John Beech on May 31, 2011

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.

Posted in Corruption, Ethics, FIFA, Governance, Public relations, Sponsorship | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The worrying news of Brazil 2014

Posted by John Beech on April 18, 2011

On a recent work trip to Poland I asked my host if he thought Ukraine would be ready for Euro 2012.  His response was “Never mind Ukraine – I’m not sure Poland will be ready!”  Perhaps he was being unduly pessimistic.  Certainly Poznan’s stadium is looking good already:

Rather more worrying, I would argue, is the lack of preparedness for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.  Research just published by Brazil’s Institute for Economic Research (IPEA) and reported on the Sport Business website (1) includes the following gems:

  • Only two of 13 airport terminal construction projects are on schedule to be completed by the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
  • A third airport might be ready for the tournament “if everything goes right”, but the shortage of air travel provisions would cause transport problems for fans.
  • It’s increasingly unlikely that these projects will be ready on time.
  • State-owned airport authority Infraero “has a low level of efficiency in the execution of investment programs”.
  • Even if all 13 airport upgrades were to be ready on time, 10 are expected to be operating over capacity by the time of the World Cup.
  • Fourteen of Brazil’s 20 largest airports are already operating at more than 80% of capacity.
  • The World Cup is expected to attract up to one million visitors.
  • In addition to the 13 airports being upgraded for the World Cup, a brand new airport in Natal, another World Cup host city, still has no firm date for completion.

The map on the FIFA website (2) makes clear how important air travel will be for fans to move between venues, road and rail not being viable alternatives.  Flying distances can be checked out here (3) – Rio to Manaus, for example, is 1,765 miles, almost exactly the same flying distance as London to Ankara in Turkey.

I’d have to put my hand up and admit that my level of Portuguese is, well, completely zero, but if any reader can abstract more relevant info from the IPEA website I’d be glad to hear from them – the URL for the original report, is, I think, given a Google Translator fail, http://www.ipea.gov.br/portal/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8039:jornal-brasil-economico-rj-de-13-aeroportos-em-construcao-para-a-copa-9-nao-ficarao-prontos&catid=159:clipping&Itemid=75

So, potentially another fine mess Sepp has got us into.  By the way, it’s interesting to note what the IOC said in their evaluation report leading up to the award of the 2016 Olympics to Rio: “Necessary expansion plans for Rio International Airport will increase its capacity from 15 million people per year to 25 million by 2014.” (4)

Posted in 2014, FIFA | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

FIFA’s largesse

Posted by John Beech on January 6, 2011

Before I return to more usual topics (I’m working on a posting on a nonleague club), it’s worth picking up on something Paul Geiss raised in a comment on my last post.  Some details emerged today of the monies paid to various countries to provide “a share of the benefits from the successful staging of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™” (1)

Figures are based on a total per player basis and are intended to go the club the player comes from.  One player attracts $1600 per day if at the World Cup, whether he actually plays or not.  As Blatter puts it, “We are pleased that we can share the success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup with the clubs by providing them a share of the benefits of our flagship event, in particular to recognise their efforts in the development of young players

Unfortunately the data is not entirely transparent as FIFA has only released on a country-by-country basis.  Only the data for the top five clubs, from (exactly?) 400 clubs to benefit, is given. The FIFA announcement concludes with the following: “Furthermore, a number of clubs who are not playing in their national top division will also receive a share in the payments, whilst a number of clubs from Member Associations whose representative team did not participate in the final competition, will also benefit from such payments.

I’ve repeated the data below, with a couple of extra columns – the countries’ regional body, a conversion of the FIFA dollar payment to sterling, and an indication of the wealth of the recipient countries (GDP per capita)

Country Continental body FIFA payment $1 = £0.647 GDP / capita
England UEFA $5,952,133.30 £3,851,030.25 $35,052.92
Germany UEFA $4,740,666.70 £3,067,211.35 $35,930.37
Italy UEFA $3,880,666.70 £2,510,791.35 $29,417.92
Spain UEFA $3,699,066.70 £2,393,296.15 $29,651.70
France UEFA $2,202,666.70 £1,425,125.35 $34,092.26
Netherlands UEFA $1,858,266.70 £1,202,298.55 $40,777.34
Japan AFC $1,199,866.70 £776,313.75 $33,828.07
Mexico CONACAF $1,175,866.70 £760,785.75 $14,265.99
Portugal UEFA $1,141,866.70 £738,787.75 $23,113.86
Greece UEFA $945,066.70 £611,458.15 $28,833.71
North Korea AFC $932,000.00 £603,004.00 -
Argentina CONMEBOL $758,266.70 £490,598.55 $15,603.13
South Korea AFC $714,266.70 £462,130.55 $29,790.89
Honduras CONCACAF $692,000.00 £447,724.00 $4,404.70
Russia UEFA $690,400.00 £446,688.80 $15,806.88
South Africa CAF $662,666.70 £428,745.35 $10,505.33
Turkey UEFA $600,533.30 £388,545.05 $13,392.16
Chile CONMEBOL $540,666.70 £349,811.35 $14,982.25
New Zealand OFC $533,600.00 £345,239.20 $27,420.22
Switzerland UEFA $490,666.70 £317,461.35 $41,765.28
Scotland UEFA $449,466.70 £290,804.95 $35,052.92
Denmark UEFA $445,866.70 £288,475.75 $36,763.96
USA CONCACAF $423,200.00 £273,810.40 $47,131.95
Belgium UEFA $387,733.30 £250,863.45 $36,274.55
Brazil CONMEBOL $298,800.00 £193,323.60 $11,289.25
Paraguay CONMEBOL $258,400.00 £167,184.80 $4,915.42
Israel UEFA $224,933.30 £145,531.85 $29,404.74
Australia AFC $223,866.70 £144,841.75 $39,692.06
Ghana CAF $222,000.00 £143,634.00 $1,609.50
Slovakia UEFA $198,000.00 £128,106.00 $22,267.31
Romania UEFA $190,000.00 £122,930.00 $11,766.54
Uruguay CONMEBOL $186,000.00 £120,342.00 $14,341.94
Serbia UEFA $164,000.00 £106,108.00 $10,808.06
Norway UEFA $159,866.70 £103,433.75 $53,439.67
Algeria CAF $134,400.00 £86,956.80 $7,103.61
Slovenia UEFA $123,200.00 £79,710.40 $27,899.57
Poland UEFA $105,066.70 £67,978.15 $18,836.87
Colombia CONMEBOL $96,800.00 £62,629.60 $9,445.22
Ukraine UEFA $88,000.00 £56,936.00 $6,655.54
China AFC $85,200.00 £55,124.40 $7,517.72
UAE AFC $74,533.30 £48,223.05 $36,973.44
Sweden UEFA $55,866.70 £36,145.75 $37,775.40
Saudi Arabia AFC $52,800.00 £34,161.60 $23,742.69
Czech Republic UEFA $51,466.70 £33,298.95 $24,986.85
Ivory Coast CAF $48,000.00 £31,056.00 $1,686.78
Cameroon CAF $46,400.00 £30,020.80 $2,165.14
Ecuador CONMEBOL $40,533.30 £26,225.05 $7,951.87
Qatar AFC $40,133.30 £25,966.25 $88,232.51
Egypt CAF $39,466.70 £25,534.95 $6,367.43
Bulgaria UEFA $29,866.70 £19,323.75 $12,052.37
Cyprus UEFA $28,800.00 £18,633.60 $28,044.92
Canada CONCACAF $28,133.30 £18,202.25 $39,033.69
Austria UEFA $25,200.00 £16,304.40 $39,454.01
Hungary UEFA $24,000.00 £15,528.00 $18,815.88
Wales UEFA $9,866.70 £6,383.75 $35,052.92

[Countries in italics did not reach the Finals in South Africa.
GDP per capita figures are IMF estimates for 2010, of which home countries data is UK data]

This distribution would be a complete fail as an attempt to redistribute FIFA’s income from 2010 on a needs basis. Broadly, the rich get richer.

The fact that England tops the list is a reflection of the international make-up of Premier League squads rather than recognition of their efforts in the development of young players, as Blatter would have us believe.

Clubs in New Zealand, the sole OFC recipient, pick up just under £350,000; African clubs pick up just over three quarters of a million pounds; clubs in the two Americas share roughly the same amount, £1.4m heading southwards to CONMEBOL and £1.5m northwards to CONCACAF (roughly half of that heading for Mexican clubs), just over two million heads to Asia and the rest goes to UEFA clubs, in 29 of the 53 UEFA nations.  ‘How much is the European share’ you ask.  Well, it’s a total of just under eighteen and three quarter million pounds, which is three quarters of the money.

It’s interesting to see who the ‘furthermore’ countries are, selected on some unspecified basis.  Biggest gainer in this group is Russia, with just under £450,000.  Russia?  Now they’ve come up in FIFA press releases recently if I remember rightly.  As has Qatar, who pick up £26,000.  Bet that’ll make a big difference to Qatari clubs.  Qatar, by the way, has the highest GDP per capita in the world.

I’m sure Sepp Blatter must know what he’s doing.

Posted in 2010, FIFA | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Lessons from South Africa

Posted by John Beech on January 5, 2011

If you are still ‘feeling the hurt’ of England’s failed bid for the 2018 World Cup (and perhaps thinking London 2012 will be a roaring success), you may well be interested in the results of a survey made by the National Department of Tourism (NDT) and South African Tourism (SAT) on the impact of the 2010 World Cup.  Apparently it  shows that “without a doubt that the event will have a lasting legacy in terms of the South African tourism industry” (1).

Now this doesn’t exactly come as a surprise.  It has long been established by Adam Blake, Professor of Economics & Econometrics at Bournemouth University’s School of Tourism, and others, that the Olympics, for example, can have a positive economic effect.  The impact varies though – generally it is fairly local, and, in terms of an ongoing tourism legacy, the less the destination is already an established tourism destination, the bigger the subsequent impact.

Undoubtedly there are some great headline statistics for South Africa.  See futebolfinance for a quick summary.  But as futebolfinance points out, “With a cost that was estimated at about 3,225 million Euros (see How much is a FIFA World Cup ), the benefits are clearly below costs, leaving just as big beneficiaries of the events, FIFA itself and the sponsoring companies that achieve a huge media exposure.”  South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk insists that “I have no doubt that South Africa is reaping the rewards of hosting the Cup.”  Well, he wouldn’t, would he?

All of this just reinforces my personal view that FIFA (and the IOC) have done an amazing PR job in managing to get countries queuing up to lose money while others reap the benefit.  In the case of FIFA, where Seb Blatter has made much of his desire to take the World Cup beyond its traditional host areas, it is abundantly clear that the number of possible new venues is going to be extremely limited.  Beyond Qatar, the ability to finance the hosting of a FIFA World Cup may be restricted to countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  Is that really Blatter’s intention?  There is an obvious way of facilitating a wider range of hosts – cash-rich FIFA could subsidise the hosting.  Not that I’m holding my breath mind you…

Posted in 2010, 2012, 2018, FIFA | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Another side to the World Cup

Posted by John Beech on July 6, 2010

Most of us will have been (eventually!) enjoying the World Cup as a feast of football, soaking up the atmosphere even if only in our sitting rooms or in the pub, and savouring the more dramatic and skilful moments.

We may even spare a thought for the pressure on those who produce this spectacle.  This morning Sir Alex Ferguson spoke of the pressure on Wayne Rooney, suggesting that this was the reason for his poor performance (1).  It’s all too easy to forget that the pressure is also on a whole load of people who are not players.

No less a figure than Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and ex-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has strongly criticised FIFA for causing hardship to street vendors through the creation of exclusion zones around stadiums (2).  Street vending is estimated to account for 7 percent of South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product, and it has been estimated that there could be more than 100,000 street and informal traders who have lost their livelihoods during the World Cup.  No great benefit for them from the World Cup then; rather, they and their families will have had an extremely hard time.  Their reaction is recorded here.

This is not the first time that this kind of issue has emerged.  You may have noticed the strike.  I’m not referring to the problems of Les Bleus, but to the stewards protesting over pay (3) – they claimed they had only been paid £17, significantly less than they had been promised.  The strike was broken by bringing in police to take over their duties (4).  Whether they too were expected to work 15 hour shifts is unclear (5).

So far the World Cup, as an event, has been a great success.  But when talk turns to ethics it should not be confined to Suarez’s handball.  Given FIFA’s budget, it should be possible to ensure that the benefit of the World Cup extends to the hosts.

Posted in 2010, Ethics, FIFA, Human Resource Management | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

FIFA and political interference

Posted by John Beech on July 2, 2010

I’ve posted previously on the potential mess for France in the aftermath of their poor performance in the World Cup – with various threats emanating from not only Sports Minister Rosalyne Bachelot but also President Sarkozy coming dangerously close to the kind of interference that FIFA will not tolerate apparently.  In Italy too there has been criticism, but not as yet any that could be considered interference (1). Now Nigeria are in trouble (2).  President Goodluck [now there's irony] Jonathan has banned the national team from participating in international football for two years to give them time to get their act together.  FIFA’s reaction has been to threaten to suspend Nigeria unless the ban is withdrawn, which is not quite as Pythonesque as it first appears, as the real threat is that FIFA will withdraw funding.  Mind you, I can’t quite free myself from the Python analogy.  FIFA issuing threats to governments has got to be at least a bit Pythonesque – could this all lead to FIFA dispatching a gunboat if Nigeria doesn’t back down?  (And where does FIFA base its gunboats anyway, given that it is based in land-locked Switzerland? ;-)). We’ve come quite close to political interference in England.  There were not only the various manifestoes at the last election (see here) – insisting that clubs sell 25% of their shares can hardly be considered anything other than interference whether you think it sensible or not.  Now we have David Amess MP weighing in with an Early Day Motion (3) calling for an urgent enquiry into the state of the English game – one which, if it ever happened, would be taken notice of as much as the Burns Report.  Personally, I think he might more usefully devote his time to sorting out football problems rather nearer to home – he is MP for Southend West. The notion that governments should not interfere with sport is of course absolutely ‘right on’, at least from a Western liberal perspective.  FIFA is, being a global organisation, obliged to see things from a variety of cultural perspectives.  The relevant FIFA Statute is 13.1., which states that members are obliged “to manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties” (4).  So how exactly does that apply to North Korea for example?  Do the North Koreans simply brazen it out and argue that in North Korea there are no third parties, and that government and Football Association are one and the same?  While I mayseem to make light of the issues, there is a serious point – that FIFA should not bend its statutes to meet the varying situations in different member countries.  There should not be one interpretation of the statutes for countries that are dictatorships, left or right, and another for democracies.

FIFA/POLITICAL INTERFERENCE UPDATE - 3 July 2010

Stories centred on FIFA and possible confrontation with national governments seem to be like buses at the moment.

The Irish Football Association President and Vice President are reported as being on the verge of enforced resignation (A), having just been re-elected unopposed, with the Northern Ireland government using funding for a new stadium as leverage.  In Russia, FIFA Executive Committee member and Minister for Sport is coming under pressure, at least in part because of his alledged excesses with expenses (B). Meanwhile, back in England, The Daily Mail (no, I don’t read it by choice, but it does pop up in Google News alerts) is reporting that Minister of Sport Hugh Robertson “will be demanding [sic] that the dysfunctional Football Association gets its house in order after the World Cup 2018 vote in December” (C). He is also reported as having “pledged to ensure the recommendations of the 2005 Burns report are properly implemented — especially the independent representation on the FA board“.  So no government nominees then.  As if.  England isn’t North Korea after all. Oh, and great comment from Allan Brown below.

UPDATE – 11 August 2010

FIFA have finally taken action over North Korea (D), to investigate allegations of player mistreatment after the team’s return from the World Cup (E).  Well, when I say ‘action’, I mean that they have just asked for information, so don’t hold your breath.

UPDATE – 4 October 2010

FIFA has now suspended Nigeria (full FIFA statement here). This is, FIFA says, for a number of reasons including “court actions against elected members of the NFF Executive Committee preventing them from exercising their functions and duties“.

More details of the underlying issues here.

Posted in FIFA, Governance | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Au revoir les Bleus

Posted by John Beech on June 26, 2010

If Schadenfreude is your thing – and you are not French – then you would have enjoyed the last few days in France.  The ignominious departure of the lacklustre national team from the World Cup caused a positive hurricane of media outpouring.

On Tuesday, the press was already clear in its displeasure with events in South Africa.  Today in France led with:

‘Thanks and see you again’ was certainly tongue in cheek – the article begins ‘After six weeks of psycho-drama, there hasn’t been a miracle.

This is how Tuesday’s definitive loss to hosts South Africa was reported the following morning.  France Football went with ‘Death on the Field of Dishonour‘, showing the sense of understatement that you would normally associate with a British tabloid.

It was “The End of a World” according to top French sports newspaper l’Equipe.  Even le Figaro made the departure of Raymond Domenech its lead story, assuring its readers that his ‘retirement’ was approved by presumably the entire French nation.  He did himself no favours with the media – the French TV showed the clip of him refusing to shake hands with Carlos Alberto Parreira, South Africa’s manager, again and again and again.  His post-match interview might have seemed statesmanlike on the radio, but casually picking his ear took away sime of his gravitas on television.

Being of an academic disposition, I immediately conducted a survey to establish who exactly the French public saw as being responsible.  Admittedly a sample of just one – the owner of the bar in Granville where I was drinking – does not ensure statistical confidence, but he was unequivocal in his answer: “Everbody.  The President of the French Football Association, Raymond Domenech, all the players…

By Thursday morning the whole crisis had escalated:

An affair of state‘ it had indeed become.  President Sarkozy was supposedly spitting bullets, and Sports Minister Rosalyne Bachelot dishing out public bollockings.  She said that she believed it inevitable that French Football Association President will go.  FIFA has of course reacted angrily at to this perceived blatant interference by a government into football affairs (1).  Gerard Houlier is also featured in the story, although by this point Herself was becoming more reluctant to translate French press reports on football into English while on her holiday, so I’m not sure why.  As my bar-owner friend had said though, everyone is to blame.

While there are deeper long-running issues which have led les Bleus to the disastrous situation they find themselves in, the immdediate setting is the refusal of Ncolas Anelka to apologise for swearing at Raymond Domenech, Anelka being sent home as a result, the players then striking briefly, Evra grassing to the press, etc. etc.

Already there have been commercial repercussions.  The team has already lost its kit sponsor (2), and Crédit Agricole and fast-food company Quicktoday have cancelled their television adverts with the team (3).

How very different from England’s campaign.  Cheeky chappy John Terry had of course come close to becoming a ‘traitor’, as Evra was branded, but I like to think of him as a public-spirited whistle blower.  Well, it would be disloyal not to, wouldn’t it?  And England had apparently (I say ‘apparently’ because French television preferred to show the Algeria game) beaten Slovenia convincingly 1-0.  Of course I believe The Sun report which spoke of “renewed optimism after a performance which was a lot more convincing than the score suggests” (2).  I certainly hope so – a scoreline of 1-0 against a country of 2 million people which only became a country less than twenty years ago doesn’t strike me as particularly convincing.  Who knows, we may yet see Steven Gerrard, à la Theirry Henry, summoned to Downing Street to explain.

[Normal service is almost resumed.  I will be away in Austria next week for a funeral, but plan to get at least one more posting up before I depart.]

Posted in 2010, FIFA, Governance, Human Resource Management, Sponsorship | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Political correctness in South Africa

Posted by John Beech on June 16, 2010

You  wait over a week for a World Cup story to come up on this blog and then three come along almost at once!  This one, the second, has a very direct connection with English football finance.

Nadeem Khan, a member of the South African Liverpool Supporters Club, accompanied by his wife and child, put up a banner at the Germany v. Australia game on Sunday night in Durban among other supporters’ banners (full story here).  About half an hour into the game he was somewhat surprised to see three security officials taking it down – and subsequently it was destroyed by FIFA officials!  His ‘crime’, as in the Click Liverpool report, was identified by FIFA officials that “the flag contravened their rules against obscene or vulgar images being displayed at games, despite no such guidelines existing in FIFA’s ticketing terms and conditions.” The only even remotely relevant prohibitions I can find in the official Fan Guide (p.52) are on racist or xenophobic material and on promotional or commercial material.

Well, judge for yourself (photo link to Click Liverpool site embedded here).

Liverpool fan Ziyaad Hassam outside Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg with the banner

Obscene?  An absurd suggestion.  Vulgar?  Au contraire!  I think it has rather tasteful connotations of nineteenth century trade union banners.

This was plain and simple censorship.  For the extremely heavy-handed handling of Hassam, click through to the full report here.  The same report also mentions two other incidents – “Two Irish fans were threatened with imprisonment for displaying an inoffensive flag during France’s game with Uruguay last Friday whilst Americans were also threatened with jail terms for holding up a banner claiming, ‘Wayne Bridge for USA’ during their clash with England.

I’m afraid I find this approach to fans all too typical of the FIFA way – the naked commercialisation of their activities has led them to lose touch with the fans.  The episode has prompted me to add a Censorship tag to the blog, and retrospectively add it to two previous postings.

Posted in 2010, Censorship, Fans, FIFA | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

FIFA’s muscle flexing

Posted by John Beech on May 13, 2010

Given that both tax and transparency are very much flavours of the month in football, it’s surprising that an item on England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup should have provoked so little reaction (1).  In a nutshell, FIFA are demanding that the World Cup should be tax exempt in any hosting country:

“Any host country requires a comprehensive tax exemption to be given to Fifa and further parties involved in the hosting and staging of an event,” said a Fifa spokesman.

Apart from the obvious need for this posting to gain a ‘Chutzpah’ tag, one must wonder why FIFA, a registered charity, should see the need to gain exemptions for ‘further parties’, i.e. players.

No doubt FIFA would argue that a) they need to get the best deal they can and b) in some potential host countries (Qatar seems the most obvious example) the personal income tax rates are considerably lower than in England.

True, but it strikes me that FIFA are really rather getting above themselves in dictating tax arrangements in foreign countries.  They bemoan governmental interference in football, as they have recently made clear by threatening to suspend El Salvador (2), yet apparently feel it perfectly acceptable to interfere with the running of sovereign states.

As if this in itself is not shocking enough, FIFA also insist that such interference remain confidential!

Do they involve relieving the players, possibly even those already resident in the UK, from paying tax on their incomes?

“I’m not able to tell you,” said a spokesman for the England 2018 bid team. “Fifa requires it [the technical bid document] to remain confidential.”

But he stressed that this applied to all conditions, including those applying to visas, work permits, travel, security, banking and foreign currency, commercial rights and broadcasting.

“It is not a selective confidentiality,” he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said: “I can’t go into detail of any of that because Fifa have very strict confidentiality clauses – but there is always room for manoeuvre.”

It will be interesting to see how our new government addresses this issue as it begins to tackle the budget deficit.  Time for change I would have thought. ;-)

The practical problem in all of this is that, if the UK and other governments with conventional income tax regimes dig their heels in, FIFA may choose just to place the World Cup in oil rich nations in air-conditioned stadiums (see More stadium madness), which would be another step down the road of the Harlem Globetrotterisation of football.

[For an interesting personal view of the way FIFA operates, those who haven't seen it may find Andrew Jennings' Transparency in Football website of interest (now added to my LINKS page.]

UPDATE – 14 May 2010

Cameron has phoned Blatter and said the new government will do “everything in our power” to help the England 2018 bid (A), presumably including facilitating tax avoidance.  HMRC will be pleased.

Posted in 2018, Chutzpah, Ethics, FIFA, Governance, HMRC | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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