Are FIFA Sponsors Demanding Mission Impossible?

ESPN sources on Wednesday reported that FIFA posted a $100 million financial loss in 2015 thanks to the loss of key sponsors and mounting legal bills following the corruption scandal that has engulfed the organization.

While it is not unusual for FIFA’s income to drop drastically following a World Cup year, soccer’s world governing body has almost always managed to make a surplus in a non-World Cup year -- the notable recent exception being 2001, the same year its marketing partner ISL went bust, forcing the organization to take out a $176 million loan. 

This year, FIFA is losing money because it has thus far been unable to attract new sponsors after losing the likes of Emirates and Sony, former top-tier partners, as well as Castrol, Continental Tire and Johnson & Johnson, which were second-tier sponsors. Its legal bills are also significant, with several of the organization’s current and former executives facing indictments in the U.S. on corruption charges.

ESPN’s sources claim that the deficit has heaped pressure on FIFA’s executive committee members, who are meeting Wednesday and Thursday to accept the audit and compliance committee’s reform proposal, which includes, among other things, 12-year term limits for the president and ExCo members as well as financial transparency surrounding salaries and bonuses.

However, those measures may not be enough: ahead of Wednesday’s ExCo meeting, FIFA sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Adidas, The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald's Corp and Visa Inc., on Monday posted a letter demanding that FIFA take the audit committee’s reforms further by subjecting them to “independent oversight”, which the sponsors say would help “enhance FIFA’s credibility.” They added further that transparency, accountability, respect for human rights, integrity, leadership and gender equality were all crucial to the future of FIFA. The net result, they said, should be “cultural change” inside the organization.

Amen, but what independent organization is capable of overseeing such a transition and in what kind of (reasonable) time frame? Who would lead it, and how many partners? Are we talking about a large consultancy or accounting firm? The United Nations? Despite the stated urgency for implementing these reforms, suggestions as to who would carry it out were, unfortunately, left out.

Meanwhile, in a separate report, ESPN celebrated the five-year anniversary of the ExCo’s infamous awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively, by compiling a list of the 22 men who participated in that vote and showing us where they are now. 

It makes for astonishing reading. Of the 22, four have been banned from the game (three for life), while three—including President Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini—have been provisionally suspended, one has been indicted by the U.S. department of justice, and two more are currently under police or FBI investigation. Two others were suspended for taking bribes before the 2018 and 2022 votes even took place; three have retired, one has been fined for failing to cooperate, and one has passed away.

One of the five current ExCo members left over from that 2010 vote is Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister and head of its 2018 World Cup organizing committee, who was recently described by the World Anti-Doping Agency as “complicit” in the doping scandal that has engulfed his country. Two of the remaining four have been linked to other corruption scandals but have not been formally charged.

For a current and prospective FIFA sponsors, it makes for grim reading, indeed. That being said, the size and scope of the so-called “cultural change” these sponsors are seeking is almost unconscionable. It may also be essentially impossible to implement given the urgency. 

4 comments about "Are FIFA Sponsors Demanding Mission Impossible?".
  1. Kenneth Gough, December 2, 2015 at 10:47 p.m.

    Time for the Swiss authorities to put FIFA in receivership, appoint a respected businessman to straighten out its operations, and let the courts put the bastards in jail where they belong.

  2. Andrea Hana, December 3, 2015 at 1:43 p.m.

    Just scrap the whole thing and start over with a new organization.

  3. Bob Ashpole, December 3, 2015 at 11:50 p.m.

    When an organization has been engaged in widespread criminal behavior, corrections should be immediate. Periodic reviews by independent auditors is a common practice for law-abiding large corporations handling billions of dollars in revenue, so there is no excuse for delaying implementation of at least an interim program.

  4. Bob Ashpole, December 4, 2015 at 12:14 p.m.

    A corporation is a fictional person. It is not real, so replacing the fictional person accomplishes nothing. The problem is large amounts of money and human nature, and the problem still remains even if you replace the fictional person with another.

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