Last week’s accusations that the European media were being racist in their claims that the FIFA World Cup bid by Qatar was not above board had a very familiar ring to it. FIFA President Sepp Blatter was quoted as saying “Once again there is a sort of storm against FIFA relating to the Qatar World Cup. Sadly there’s a great deal of discrimination and racism and this hurts me.”
It is almost as if the FIFA President is on some kind of public statement loop as these comments were made on June 09 2014.
If we go back to June 13th 2009 he had this to say. “As soon as we pulled out the piece of paper with the name South Africa on it they started asking, why. Why? It is early let us go and trust a little.” He once again, while in South Africa for the Confederations Cup, accused the European media of being racist. It would appear that when all else fails and to he needs to try and deflect attention racism is Sepp Blatter’s “get out of jail” card.
There are many in South Africa who now look at FIFA very differently five years on. Of the ten stadia erected for the 2010 World Cup, only one, Soccer City is paying its way. The nine other venues built from scratch or renovated at a cost of 10 billion Rand are all in the red. The bill for the up-keep of these stadia has now fallen to already cash-strapped municipalities.
Brazil’s protestors have been arguing understandably that the USD11.7 billion which has been earmarked for World Cup expenditure would have been better spent on hospitals, schools and public transport. Their budget is three times larger than South Africa’s was. Many in South Africa can relate to the Brazilian protests, they too believe that if monies spent on the World Cup had been spent on these essential services the country would be in a better position.
FIFA used, and no doubt has used the same phrase to Brazil, that people need to focus on the “Non-tangible” benefits of hosting a World Cup. They claimed the World Cup would boost tourism to South Africa. Tourism has boomed in the last 18 months but analysts put this down to a weal currency rather than hosting the World Cup! A definite intangible if ever there was one.
With continued allegations of corruption Blatter is beginning to feel the pinch and no longer can he recycle sound bytes to try and deflect attention from FIFA’s failings.
With five of FIFA’s six major sponsors having expressed their displeasure over the current accusations Blatter may be forced into a corner where he has to makes changes for the good of the game, rather than those at the head of the game. Long-time supporter of FIFA, Sportswear maker Adidas, said in a statement last Sunday that “The negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners.” It is understood that the sponsors may well be the ones who apply the much needed pressure that the members of the FIFA Executive Council have failed to do. These sponsors do not want to relinquish their sponsorship agreement’s, but they want to be associated with the good things about Football and not the bad. They certainly do not want to be embroiled in regular racist slanging matches.
It is time for a new script and a new leader and if that cannot happen from within, then it must be the influences of those outside of the corridors of power to speak. Calls have been made around the world for consumers to boycott some of these major sponsors in order to force them to influence change in FIFA, with pressure appearing to already build it may be the final push that forces change.