FIFA Corruption – Time for Sponsors to Take Action

football-730418_1280What is there to say about FIFA that has not been said many times before? As a demonstration of the pernicious effects of corruption, it is first-class, showing how an entire organisation can become totally rotten from the core, all caused by the huge growth in the money swilling around football, and lack of proper and professional processes, policies and compliance management.

It also takes us back to comments we made a couple of months ago, about the choice of Qatar for the 2022 event, when we asked why procurement best practice could not be used in the selection of World Cup venues. It is not so different from choosing a key supplier after all, so tendering and evaluation processes would be just as applicable here as in more conventional procurement. You could even build in weighting factors to prefer certain continents if you had that preference in a particular year – but make it all as objective and transparent as possible.

Let’s hope the sponsors now make something happen. It does not reflect well on Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Visa, Adidas, McDonalds, Emirates, Hyundai et al that it has taken them so long to speak out. They have been happy to continue their association with this rotten organisation for too long, but perhaps they now know they have to do something. They are also coming under pressure on social media, both around the corruption issue and also the treatment of workers on the Qatar construction sites.

I mean, does Visa’s marketing department think anyone is really saying “I must get one of those nice Visa credit cards because they support the World Cup”? Or might association with now oft-repeated words such as corruption, bribery and graft suggest that is not ideal for a financial services firm? At least Visa has said that it would “reassess our sponsorship” if FIFA did not change its ways. Others have said less - so as a small personal protest against corruption, I'm not going to touch Coca-Cola, McDonalds or Budweiser products until those firms take action!

That then got me wondering about the nature of the sponsorship agreements those firms have. Do they have clauses covering reputational risk within the contracts? Might we even see sponsors suing FIFA because of damaged reputation? And do the procurement teams in those firms get involved in the sponsorship agreements? (That was one good success procurement achieved at NatWest in my day, getting involved in the cricket sponsorship deals, although that was down to colleagues not me personally).

In the meantime, everyone who does not follow football is getting heartily sick of this story monopolising  the media. But I suspect there is a lot more to come out yet.

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