In a week of scandal and sleaze, the reputation of sport has taken a battering. Football fan and Clearbox Associate Director John Megaughin offers his take on how one organisation in particular can use negativity and corruption as a springboard to re-build and enhance its reputation.
Sport is often lauded as one of the shining lights of the business world. An arena free from political agendas and cross-border tensions, sport has traditionally offered a clean, global platform for brands to gain exposure through sponsorship without the fear of being tarnished by corruption or wrongdoing. The events of this week have, quite literally, moved the goalposts.
The BBC Panorama investigation into performance enhancing drugs aimed serious allegations of doping at Mo Farah’s US-based coach and training partner and FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s resignation in the wake of bribery claims brings the curtain down on a turgid week for sport.
Regardless of the outcome of the Farah story, athletics will bounce back. Claims of doping aren’t new and the sport will recover. But what about FIFA? That’s a different case altogether. How does the organisation recover its reputation and move forward?
The first problem the organisation faces in the bid to repair its reputation is time. Under current FIFA rules, it will be at least four months before a new Presidential Election will take place. Theoretically, Blatter could remain in post until December, although this is currently being challenged, with a bids launched by several candidates to become interim presidents of the organisation.
The prospect of Blatter remaining in charge while the FBI pulls the organisation down is a nightmare for FIFA and its sponsors. But what can they do about it? For now, not a lot. Sponsors are tied into long-term contracts that, rumour suggests, have no break clause so they’re stuck with FIFA for now. Added to this are the emerging stories of testimonies from the accused and the rapidly plummeting level of corruption. It’s not a good time for anyone involved in the beautiful game.
However, I’d argue that all is not lost for world football. Ironically, the industrial scale of corruption may actually help FIFA’s reputation recover and grow far beyond its previous status.
The scandal involves practically all of FIFA’s senior management team. They will all leave the organisation, and most likely face jail. From a reputation perspective, this draws a line in the sand. It’s a clean break.
Instead of focusing on the wrongdoing of the past, which will be rightly dealt with in court, the organisation has a chance for the first time in a generation to genuinely move forward, reshape and refocus for the good of the game.
The pain of the current situation will be damaging and will have ramifications for years to come – particularly with regards to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts. That’s beyond dispute. But with the entire senior management team gone and new, transparent laws put in place, this is a new dawn for FIFA. A chance to rebuild the faith it has lost with sponsors, Associations and, most importantly of all, fans.
The attention of the world will quickly switch from old FIFA to new. That’s when the organisation has the opportunity to set out its stall, to start again with sponsors and to map the way forward for a corruption-free future of world football.
It’s not all doom and gloom for FIFA. The organisation has benefits, does great community work across the globe and offers sponsors incredible profile opportunities. These qualities, even in the midst of the biggest sporting scandal since Lance Armstrong sat down with Oprah, will surely stand the future of the organisation in good stead.
FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich can weather the storm and its reputation and business credentials will be stronger in the long run.