FIFA scores a governance own goal

FIFA boardroom featured image

I came across this photo of the FIFA boardroom a while back, and thought “That will come in handy for the next time FIFA hits the headlines with another bribery and corruption scandal”. In my mind it was inevitable, it was just a question of when.

Sepp Blatter’s claim that he will work to improve governance is hard to believe. Having been in the role for 17 years, Mr Blatter ignored a recommendation for fixed term limits made in 2011 by an independent panel convened by FIFA. This same panel also recommended full disclosure of cash. Again, this recommendation, while in line with good practice, was not implemented.

Mr Blatter also says that he cannot be held responsible for the actions of others. The board is the brain of the organisation. It is responsible for setting the tone and culture of the Federation. As president, Mr Blatter has a key leadership role in the boardroom. He should have been aware of any wrongdoing, and should have taken action to stop it. In any other boardroom, something of this scale and impact would have prompted the resignation of the Chair. A good President puts the needs of the organisation above their own. The reputational damage to FIFA is staggering. The danger of sponsors leaving, and the possibility of UEFA pulling out of the World Cup should send alarm bells ringing everywhere. However, Mr Blatter also has his supporters, and they are very loyal. This can be seen in his defeat of Prince Ali last Friday.

So in the short-term, Mr Blatter may keep the status quo. However, now that the organisation is on the radar of the US Department of Justice, the likelihood is that there will be more revelations, with things getting worse for FIFA before they get better.