FIFA's all powerful brand Is no
longer infallible —

FIFA's all powerful brand is no longer infallible. Like the Catholic Church they believe in one holy apostolic FIFA. FIFA, the world football's governing body is often very directly associated with Switzerland, partly because Sepp Blatter, who is Swiss, leads it, and because it has been based in Zürich since 1932.

In a recent ethics hearing Blatter flatly denied bribery allegations, “…absolutely no wad of money given, ever, do I make myself clear?” he said. However, hidden cameras set up by Sunday Times reporters posing as representatives of the US 2022 bid caught them out. There's an odour in light of the conduct of many of its officials now seeping under its doors into Swiss political circles, where questions are being asked regarding the federation’s financial affairs. With a significant list of corruption evidence and allegations, the file held by judicial authorities in the Canton of Zug provides evidence of dubious practices.

I visited their headquarters and was a guest in their exclusive restaurant a few years ago. I was staggered by the magnificence of the $200 million building, with only two of its floors above ground - they are certainly well dug in, high above Zürich Berg. Now at this Vatican of football, Blatter and his Cardinals are not dissimilar to the supremacy of Rome. However, like the real Holy Father, his own infallibility is now coming in for severe criticism. 

The more I read on FIFA and its fantastic global brand being tarnished, I can't help but draw the parallel with the pomp and ritual of Rome. FIFA sanctions anyone who does not adhere to its rules. Like the Catholic Church they believe in one holy apostolic FIFA.

Every male, female and junior footballer, and also every football match in the world, is governed by FIFA, with the exception of fun tournaments and matches in alternative leagues. When accepting their licences, all footballers recognise the authority of FIFA and agree to refrain from going to ordinary courts over football related disputes. Like the Catholic Church, FIFA sanctions anyone who does not adhere to her rules.

FIFA has monopolised a human passion loved by millions and exploits it for commercial purposes. You have to marvel at its power and ability to manipulate its network across the globe into a kind of religion with its own special cause.

It generates annual revenue of approximately US$1.4 billion through the sale of television and marketing rights for football World Cup Tournaments. 

The salary bill in 2011 was US$67.3 million for 390 employees - an average of US$172,677, which seems terrific if you're the humble doorman or secretary on the front desk. Other employee benefits costs tallied more than US$21 million. On top of all of this, a bonus of US$29.5 million was paid for key management personnel defined as members of the 24-person executive committee.

Martin Luther (Christanity's first brand manager), a monk from Wittenberg in Germany, began to criticise the power and corruption of the Catholic Church (and its brand) in 1517. He said it was unfair of the Pope to stop translations of the Bible as ordinary people couldn't read Latin and they had to rely on their priest to tell them what it meant. Pardoners with the Pope's permission traveled throughout Europe selling indulgences. They said all you have to do was buy one and you could pay for forgiveness. Even for someone who had already died you could buy your loved one a ticket to heaven, from wherever they were in the meantime. If you ever get to Rome you will undoubtedly be rendered speechless at the magnificence of St. Peter's; it defies all budgets I have ever cited in my humble world of marketing. So they certainly knew how to exploit a monopoly on Christianity at the time, in much the same way as FIFA today.

The federation’s financial affairs generates billions in revenues, provides hardly any services, pays virtually no tax because of its not-for-profit status under Swiss law, and is seen as a sanctuary for corruption. An anti-corruption campaign launched by FIFA itself last November has failed to prove convincing. At a governing body conference in March, Blatter vowed it would change the way it investigates corruption. He seems quite able to neither hear, see, nor speak no evil.

Blatter personally has attracted criticism from the media, senior football figures and players, due to several controversial statements. These include suggesting that female football players should wear tighter shorts to appear more attractive to men, that Latin American countries would applaud John Terry for having an extramarital affair, that homosexuals should refrain from any sexual activity while attending the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and that on-field racism could be corrected with a handshake.

Its ethics committee has failed to gather sufficient evidence themselves to prosecute a number of allegations of vote rigging during the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests, which was a glittering affair and a great disappointment for many, resulting in favor of Russia and Qatar. The enormous tournament in 2022 in the world's richest absolute monarchy will be an interesting spectacle, and one where the money is apparently already flowing. Qatar has a population of 300,000 and is where people survive quite nicely on a tiny stretch of very hot sand.

Still, under Sharia law, I'm not sure how the football fans and perhaps the more loutish element will cope with the limits on lager, and the threat of a potential flogging or stoning. I expect money will change hands in all directions behind the tent in true FIFA style.

After all FIFA's Brand tagline is “For the game. For the world”.