It’s hard to see that there is anything positive to be found in the fiasco that is FIFA right now. Only the whistle-blowers who went to Chuck Blazer and showed him the $40,000 in cash that Mohamad bin Hammam tried to bribe them with come out with any credit. Jack Warner, who seemed to be acting as facilitator, and bin Hammam were suspended and then Blazer was in turn sacked and reinstated. Sepp Blatter who has for decades presided over a secretive culture of back-room deals sails serenely on, winning a further term of office as president by default because bin Hammam had withdrawn after the bribery scandal hit the world’s media. Even the English Football Association come away looking clueless and out of their depth because all the other delegates rallied round Blatter. Well, of course they’d rally round him, it’s a magnificent gravy train they’re all on and he’s the train driver.
It’s the way they rally round that’s interesting. In each case during the so-called Arab Spring, the despot has a coterie of loyalists who in many cases are more hardline than the despot himself. At some stage there is a tipping point where members of his inner circle desert him, or gather their courage together and tell him he has to go. That happened in Tunisia and Egypt, but it’s not happening yet in Libya, Syria or Yemen. If we substitute brown envelopes stuffed with cash for tanks and bullets, might we have a parallel between FIFA and certain Arab countries? How can Blatter be deposed? Will his coterie turn against him? Can we look forward to a Soccer Spring?
We can, because there is a further element involved: The sponsors. Adidas, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Hyundai-Kia Motors, Sony, and VISA pump many millions of dollars into FIFA and they do it for one reason only: to win favour with the world’s consumers. Withdraw that favour and their money is wasted. Worse, if association with FIFA is seen in a negative light it could even be damaging. Just look how quickly sponsors withdraw from any event that is suddenly a PR disaster. This FIFA fiasco is a PR disaster of major proportions, we just have to let the sponsors know.