After the scandals of the last days, Blatter’s empire is crumbling. The investigation into the alleged bribes taken by some FIFA officials brought to the arrest of seven people on Wednesday morning. The police investigation has revealed the dark side of football, a sport that is getting more and more linked to the business world, to great deals, and that is becoming more and more distant from families and young people. At the moment, Blatter has not been accused yet, but his re-election is uncertain, especially because the most powerful federation – UEFA – has requested his immediate resignation, considering him a man not to be trusted. The number one of European football, Michelle Platini, said he was “disgusted” by what happened and announced: “Now many people will vote for Prince Bin Al-Hussein,” son of King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan and half brother of king Abdullah II.
The UEFA’s rejection – invoked by the Premier League (a super world power with an annual turnover up to 3 billion euro), and supported by the Italian Serie A (“we are with Platini”, said Carlo Tavecchio, president of the federation) – was a blow for FIFA, but Blatter tried to defend himself: “I cannot control everything and everyone. But the justifications and the intention to “convince the fans to trust him again” do not lower doubts about a so powerful and so discussed man. In almost 20 years, Blatter has been often at the centre of different scandals, but he has always come out clean.
Many times, his inopportune comments or his impressive acts have tarnished his image, but they have not touched his leadership. Who does not remember the moment when he refused to give the World Cup to Italy in 2006? Or when he claimed that there is no racism in football? Or when he explained to have chosen Qatar for the 2022 World Cup because France and Germany had been using pressure to influence his choice? Anyway, all these gaffes have never weakened him. But now things could change. The economic impact of the FIFA’s scandals could crumble his empire. Over the years, the world football federation has clinched several rich contracts with top-level sponsors, such as Visa, Nike, Adidas, Coca Cola, and Mc Donald’s. These multinational corporations have always paid attention to their image, so the deal could fall through if FIFA does not put things right.
The world leader in credit cards, partner since 2007 and that has recently renewed its contract until 2022, has requested immediate measures “to build strong ethical practices” in the inside of FIFA. If this will not be done, Visa is ready to reconsider the sponsorship. Coca Cola and Mc Donald’s have asked for clarity too, highlighting that this investigation “has overshadowed the mission and the ideals of FIFA”. Mc Donald’s (active only in big international events) said to be “extremely concerned” about the scandals of the late hours, adding that it will evaluate “very seriously” any question relating to ethics and corruption.
Moreover, a week ago, Coca Cola, Adidas, and Visa asked FIFA to pressure the organization of the World Cup in Qatar to improve the conditions of the migrant workers. FIFA cannot ignore the solicitations of its sponsors, since they provide almost a third of its income. Let’s just consider that in the period from 2011 to 2014, the federation had a turnover of $5.7 billion, of which $1.6 billion were provided by the sponsors. Moreover, in 2014 it earned something like 162 million euro thanks to its historical sponsors (Adidas, Coca Cola, Emirates, Hyundai Sony and Visa). In short, something that FIFA cannot lose, even if this means to sacrifice its emperor.
Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastropaolo