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Friday, May 29, 2015

The FIFA Indictments

I'm all for globalism.  I mean, why should the U.S. and Western Europe have all the fun?  Plus, if there is more fun and interesting stuff going on everywhere, perhaps there would be less violence.  In soccer terms, that means, from a theoretical standpoint, it's good to host the World Cup all over the world. 

But when you hear that Qatar was awarded the World Cup in the middle of the summer, it makes you wonder what soccer's main body was thinking.  After all, the World Cup in Brazil this past summer took place in weather hot enough that for the first time, play was stopped for the occasional water break.  What did FIFA think would happen in Doha?  That players will be allowed to play with "camelback" water sacks on their backs to enable during-the-game hydration?  Would fans be hooked up to saline IVs in 115-degree temperature.

Sorry, FIFA, but on its face, this award looked suspicious.  I mean, hold it in Qatar's winter and explain why and get the buy-in from the world's soccer leagues, fine.  That would have been less suspicious.  But in the summer -- it just did not make any sense.  And, of course, now there are allegations that certain people -- FIFA officials -- made a lot of cents out of the deal and perhaps the award to Russia for 2018.

Let's fast forward to FIFA's head honcho, Sepp Blatter, who has hired a good crisis management communications firm to try to separate himself from this alleged mess.  Either he is Sergeant Schultz from Hogan's Heroes reincarnate, suffering from dementia or truly believes that someone he can separate his leadership from what appears to be a culture where handshake greetings are of the "palms up" variety.  Or so it seems.

I've written on many occasions that we should not try people in the media and that law enforcement can be wrong, so the FIFA group deserves a good defense and its day in court.  That said, if the allegations are proven, Sepp Blatter has to go. 

The reasoning is quite straightforward -- if the allegations are true, then all this happened on Sepp Blatter's watch, which would mean that his form of leadership wasn't clear or ethical enough to dictate to his leadership that asking for bribes was forbidden.  At many companies, division leaders get terminated when lower ranking employees do criminal things because there is an automatic assumption that the culture was too lose and enable the bad behavior to occur.  Those dismissals are fast and not always right or fair, but they do send the message that the culture of the organization and integrity of the brand are more important than any single individual.

For right now, the world will watch the U.S. prosecutions unfold, and we'll all learn enough whether FIFA is really FEE-FA, a nefarious version of "pay to play."


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