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Pressure Mounts But Blatter Remains Defiant

Thu 28th May 2015 | FIFA

UEFA calls for the Presidential election to be postponed as the crisis at FIFA deepens.

It’s understood that FIFA President, Sepp Blatter has dismissed calls for him to resign following the arrest of several FIFA officials in Zurich yesterday (27th May).

UEFA have also said it may boycott the 65th Congress and called for the postponement of the Presidential elections due to take place tomorrow (29th May).

Highlighting its concerns, a statement released by European football’s governing body read: “Today's (27th May) events are a disaster for FIFA and tarnish the image of football as a whole. 

“UEFA is deeply shocked and saddened by them. 

“These events show, once again, that corruption is deeply rooted in FIFA's culture.

“There is a need for the whole of FIFA to be "rebooted" and for a real reform to be carried out. 

“The upcoming FIFA Congress risks to turn into a farce and therefore the European associations will have to consider carefully if they should even attend this Congress and caution a system, which, if it is not stopped, will ultimately kill football.” 

And that pressure was mounting after Visa, one of FIFA’s main sponsors, expressed its concern at events.

“As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization,” read the statement.

“This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.  

“Visa became a sponsor of FIFA because the World Cup is one of the few truly global sporting events with the power to unite people from around the world through a common love of football.  

“Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement – and it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. 

“Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.“

Money from sponsors accounted for up to 70% of FIFA’s total revenues for the period 2011 to 2014 and with Sony and Emirates already stating they would not be continuing their sponsorship due to ongoing allegations of corruption, FIFA are under severe pressure to speed up the process.

Soft drinks giant Coca-Cola, who have been a FIFA sponsor since 1950, echoed the need for reform. "This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations,” read the statement.

“We expect FIFA to continue to address these issues thoroughly. FIFA has stated that it is responding to all requests for information and we are confident it will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities."

But the pace at which reform is taking place has frustrated many and the intervention of US and Swiss law agencies has been widely welcomed.  Sepp Blatter, who is thought to have held a one to one meeting with UEFA President Michel Platini who asked him to resign, following a meeting with FIFA officials to discuss the crisis released a statement yesterday reading:

“This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for FIFA as an organisation. We understand the disappointment that many have expressed and I know that the events of today will impact the way in which many people view us.

“As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football.

“While there will be many who are frustrated with the pace of change, I would like to stress the actions that we have taken and will continue to take. In fact, today’s action by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General was set in motion when we submitted a dossier to the Swiss authorities late last year.

“Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.

“Following the events of today, the independent Ethics Committee – which is in the midst of its own proceedings regarding the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups -- took swift action to provisionally ban those individuals named by the authorities from any football-related activities at the national and international level.

“These actions are on top of similar steps that FIFA has taken over the past year to exclude any members who violate our own Code of Ethics.

“We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing.”

Despite events it’s expected that Friday’s Presidential election will go ahead as planned with many feeling Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan, Blatter’s only remaining challenger after Luis Figo and Michael van Praag withdrew from the race last week, now in a much stronger position to take over.

A reformist, Prince Ali’s campaign has been based on the need for more transparency and has been backed by many at UEFA who are dismayed at the pace of change under Blatter tenure.

Prince Ali is due to walk away from the organisation should Blatter retain his position as President of FIFA stating he would not wish to continue in office under him.

“We cannot continue with the crisis in FIFA, a crisis that has been ongoing and is not just relevant to the events of today,” he said in a statement responding to yesterday's arrests.

“FIFA needs leadership that governs, guides and protects our national associations. Leadership that accepts responsibility for its actions and does not pass blame. 

“Leadership that restores confidence in the hundreds of millions of football fans around the world.”

Peter Knapp, Global Creative Officer at leading brand consultancy, Landor, believes FIFA’s brand is “fundamentally broken” and in need of a radical re-think. 

Peter argues Sepp Blatter’s reign is now too widely associated with bad practice beyond his own bizarre actions and comments.

“If FIFA doesn’t change, and quick, more sponsors will quickly drop their support for the organisation. 'Good' brands will not want to be associated with a 'bad' brand due to the negative halo effect. 

“The impact of football as a sport will be severe if action isn’t swift and convincing. It’s a question of trust and belief…without that the sport is meaningless. 

“Trust and sportsmanship are at the centre of FIFA’s authority and credibility. These are now on the brink of being totally destroyed along with the good will of the public, the sponsors and the media.

“FIFA needs to clearly derive a new set of values that will be the basis of its reconstruction moving forward. The old brand is too strongly associated with corruption and malpractice.”

Legal Opinion - Thomas Barnard, a sports solicitor at Thomas Eggar

“Contractually, it’s likely that the majority of sponsors will have included “morality” clauses in their FIFA contracts. These allow sponsors to terminate, without repercussion, where the property’s conduct infringes public morality. In practice, however, morality clauses are rarely relied upon by sponsors to terminate agreements. After all, the majority of negative press stories quickly blow over without tarnishing too badly, if at all, a sponsor’s image.

“The FIFA case is different, particularly for a financial services company like Visa where the allegations are of corruption, fraud and money laundering amounting to some US$150m. The current allegations – and who knows if more are to come – also have the potential to stick around (fraud cases can be notoriously slow) and there is therefore a very real danger to Visa (and FIFA’s other sponsors) that its own brand could be affected negatively through continued association with FIFA. 

“The risk needs to be balanced against the reward, however, and one must not forget that the World Cup generates huge exposure for the brands associated with it. No single sponsor will want to walk away from the opportunities too quickly, particularly as they will have spent considerable amounts activating the partnership. Visa first calling for change before terminating any relationship is evidence of this.

“But FIFA should not see Visa’s threat as a bluff. This is just the latest negative press story to hit FIFA and, notwithstanding FIFA’s almost laughable comments that the arrests and raids were a “good” thing for the organisation, the developments have and will continue to have a seriously detrimental impact on the governing body’s reputation until such time as there is a serious change.”


 

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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