Despite the ongoing proceedings in the United States against former FIFA officials Football’s Governing body have been remarkably quiet.
Around 40 defendants have been charged with taking more than USD$200million in bribes for TV and commercial contracts. The first to be jailed was Guatemala’s former head of Football Hector Trujillo who pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy. He was sentenced to eight months in jail. For those of you unsure as to what Wire fraud is, it is fraudulent financial behaviour involving the use of telecommunications or information technology.
At the time FIFA was very quick to distance itself from the case with FIFA President Gianni Infantino dismissing the hearings “cases of the past.” Earlier this year he stated that “As far as FIFA is concerned these things cannot happen any more,” based on the reforms that have taken place. He also stated that future World Cup bids have to be “Bullet-proof” from now on.
FIFA has implemented they claim new bidding processes, which will see the bids face greater scrutiny from an independent external auditor. The FIFA evaluations committee will also face greater restrictions on their activities.
The scandal surrounding the FIFA World Cup bids for Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022, had a far-reaching impact on the organisation. However the changes have not gone far enough for many fans. The way the organisation has continued to operate with what appear to be minimal change is extremely worrying, as other sports may also start to believe that they too can operate in such a way, and neglect the fact that they are guardians of the sports they represent.
Sadly though it appears that FIFA is still obsessed with financial rewards.
When Infantino was elected to replace Sepp Blatter he inherited a mess. In 2015 FIFA reported a USD$122million loss. A loss they blamed on legal costs as a result of the scandal enveloping the game. However a vast amount of this was down to sponsors withdrawing. Sadly as one pulled out on moral grounds, others were more than willing to get into bed with FIFA.
Do not feel too perturbed by that loss, or feel sorry for FIFA, as to combat those losses FIFA was forced to dip into their USD1.5Billion reserves to pay these costs!
Earlier in the year Infantino revealed that FIFA has a target of USD$5.65billion in revenues for the four year cycle between the 2014 and 2018 World Cups. The organisation’s aim is for a USD$100million surplus between their revenues and their spending. Spending that they claim is predominantly on National Associations and running tournaments like the World Cup.
Yet Infantino has announced that the prize money for next year’s World Cup has gone up, and a total of USD$400million will be shared between the 32 teams competing in Russia, with the winning nation receiving USD$38million.
This money has become available we are told thanks to newly negotiated television deals, but in the main thanks to the new generation of sponsors who have come on board. Yet the trade off in order to generate more income is an expanded World Cup Finals. Yet one wonders how with more teams playing at the finals the prize money can increase again in four years time. The World Cup may well be one of the biggest televised events, but as other sports have found prolonging an event can have a huge impact on viewership.
Many fans are disengaged during the early stages until the competition becomes meaningful. Others simply lose interest as the tournament drags on, and those promoting and presenting find their energy waning so the coverage itself starts to tire. We live in a disposable world. A world where smaller high quality events seem to have far more appeal, so is expansion really the way to go? There are many who feel 32 teams is already too many.
No doubt FIFA has a plan to ensure that expansion does indeed bring in more dollars, but it will be interesting to see if this plan has the desired effect and whether expansion really is the right move. For an event that purports to be a battle between the best in the World it must always be quality over quantity.
It will also be interesting to see, as the next bid process for the 2026 World Cup gets under way, just how “bullet-proof” the new process is. Actions as they say speak louder than words.