Sports Diplomacy. Can Sepp Blatter bring unity to a fractious FIFA?
After being told by Henry Kissinger that it was time to “modernize” FIFA president Sepp Blatter has turned football into a money machine that is expanding in Africa the Middle East and Asia, and maintaining a profitable scenario for marketing partners in a troubled global economy.
Reflecting on how football has become a global force during his long tenure as FIFA president, Blatter tweeted on March 23rd that...
“FIFA, with the positive emotions that football unleashes, is more influential than any country on Earth and any religion.”
Is FIFA's business model too big to fail?
Developing a reputation as an “earner” Blatter, unwittingly, has made himself a target for those who are using public diplomacy assets to play the “ethics card” in an effort to link geopolitical issues with football and disrupt FIFA's business model, which they claim remains a cesspool of corruption and bribery.
Petro Poroshenko, the pro-Washington president of Ukraine, is calling for a boycott of the FIFA 2018 Russia World Cup. The move is reminiscent of U.S. President Jimmy Carter's boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, in which he also used food as a political weapon.
FIFA claims it earned an overall gross profit of $2.6 billion on the 2014 FIFA Brazil World Cup.
But modernization also means FIFA operating under the scrutiny of a new anti-corruption law enacted by the Swiss national congress.
Blatter and his minions have voiced enough support for the new law that the 79-year-old “Godfather of Football” is being tipped to win reelection to a fifth term as FIFA president when the FIFA Executive Committee meets on May 29th.
The inside game. FIFA vs UEFA
Led by frequent Blatter critic, french national Michel Platini, the European Football Union (UEFA), which operates under FIFA's aegis, is expected to earn $2.4 billion annually in 2015 and 2016 on its Champions League alone, sports magazines and websites say. Russia, which hosts the 2018 FIFA Russia World Cup, is also a member of UEFA.
Although UEFA is headquartered in Switzerland like FIFA, the federal senator who authored the FIFA anti-corruption legislation says a separate piece of legislation will be required to regulate UEFA, which has its own set of business ethics challenges.
FIFA and its officials and their families must allow Swiss authorities to review their bank accounts. UEFA is immune not covered in the new law.
Sports media give a lot of play to the story that Platini s trying to “Europeanize” football at the expense of other regions. But the former french national team star says he is satisfied being president of UEFA and that he has no plans to challenge Blatter's leadership at this time.
Seemingly immune from the media campaign conducted by ethics assets, including FIFA officials in the United States and Britain, Platini has artfully dodged accusations that he supported Qatar's bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, based on the suggestion of former french president Nicholas Sarkozy.
Will ethics advocates steal Blatter's Mojo?
Growing numbers of business ethics professionals spawned by the emergence of corporate conversational media, and some sports pundits, are giving the issue of ethics in sport parity with the economic value that football and other entertainments provide to the globalist set-up, which welcomes the gambling industry. After all the Vatican has revived the 16th century concept of permitting betting on the election the Pope.
But these windy conversations aren't likely to damage the vitual infallibility of Blatter's sports machine. Especially now that China, aided by FIFA programs, is on a trajectory to become a world football power and a candidate to host a future FIFA World Cup.
In Africa, the African Football Confederation (CAF) and CECAF president Leodegar Tenga has announced that African football associations support Blatter's reelection.
After Blatter's visit last month to Paraguay to meet officials of CONMEBOL, FIFA's South American Football Confederation, the group agreed to support him for a fifth term over Michael van Praag of the Netherlands, former Portugal great Luis Figo and FIFA Vice President Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
In spite of the new Swiss law designed to keep a close watch on FIFA the British Football Association supports the candidacy of Prince Ali bin-al Hussein of Jordan because of his commitment to reforming the organization to be in alignment with ethical best practices one finds in the business world and its global showcase, the World Economic Forum, where Blatter has some very good friends.
Brazil, a stone in Blatter's shoe
Blatter claims that it has been his goal all along to extend the reach of the football to developing countries and markets.
But in Brazil, president Dilma Rousseff's long standing dispute with FIFA over money issues and how FIFA handouts diminish the “Brazilianness” of “the beautiful game” have created an impasse.
FIFA has gifted the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF)$100 million to modernize programs for men and women throughout the nation starting at the youth level. The government of president Dilma, who is not a football fan, is developing legislation that seeks to put the state at the forefront of this process with the CBF operating under its jurisdiction, not as a state within a state like it currently does.
Blatter, in turn, has accused the government of Brazil of “meddling” in FIFA affairs.
President Dilma's proposed legislation, meanwhile, faces delays and obstacles, since the president of the Federal Congress is a friend of FIFA. Then too, Pele, considered by many the greatest player in the history of the game, has endorsed Blatter's bid for reelection .
Brazil militarizing security at big events touches FIFA
The Dilma government has already flexed its muscles at the federal and state levels by providing fund guarantees that militarize the security at and around areas impacted by the 2016 Rio Olympic Games (including favelas), citing concerns that private contractors will not be up to the task.
A similar situation occurred at the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games when the British government called in 5,000 Royal Marines to bolster security due to contractual issues with the private security contractor G4S.
This impacts FIFA since players from FIFA associations will be playing in the football competition of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.
With president Dilma's approval rating now at an all time low, rolling out her plan to challenge FIFA and the CBF seems to be ill-timed. The best solution would be a compromise piece of legislation that would effectively preserve the status quo ante authority of FIFA and the CBF in Brazil, while providing president Dilma with a face saving opportunity that can help stabilize her approval rating.
The bottom line. FIFA's Blatter has democratized the World Cup host city selection process
Regardless of what his critics say, the FIFA business culture under Sepp Blatter's leadership is proving to be not only resilient but a good listening organization. These traits put it in alignment with the 80-20 (percentage ratio of listening to talking) advocated by experts like Bernard Ferrari, Dean of the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Now, all FIFA's 209 member federations will choose the 2026 FIFA World Cup host city at their annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia in 2017, according to an Associated Press report. In the past, FIFA World Cup host nations were chosen by a small group of FIFA regional bosses.
Blatter has stated that the United States and Canada would be good choices to host the FIFA 2026 World Cup. But whether either, or both nations make strong bids is an open question.
As the conversation over FIFA's future during Blatter's fifth term as president continues to shape shift you might want to check online betting sites for odds on who might host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. You won't be alone. A lot of hedge funds, sports marketers and people who love to play for big action will be doing the same thing.
blogger note. some text in the above post originally appeared on Huffington Post, United Kingdom