By Grace Culloton
Often times, when there is a scandal of a famous person or brand, friends will say “(Insert scandal plagued person or organization here) could really use you, what would you do to save them?” And sometimes, as we’ve discussed, you can tackle a mess with a take charge, forthright approach.
However, some scandals are so big, no crisis communications strategy alone can put them down. FIFA, the governing body of the world’s most popular sport, is mired in one of those scandals. For seemingly as long as Sepp Blatter has been the president of FIFA, the soccer organization has been beset by allegations of corruption and scandals, long before more than a dozen top executives were indicted by the U. S. Justice Department last month. Blatter’s first election was allegedly purchased for tens of thousands of dollars per vote. In 2002, he was then accused of losing half a billion dollars to corruption and mismanagement. FIFA’s vice president Jack Warner was caught illegally selling World Cup tickets on the black market, allegedly raking in over one million dollars in profit, still retaining his position. The 2010 World Cup held in South Africa was investigated by the U.S Justice Department over whether tournament organizers accepted millions of dollars in bribes, culminating with 6 FIFA executives being suspended for trying to sell their World Cup votes.
Amidst this rampant corruption, FIFA is still the premier organization for the biggest sport in the world. After the recent arrests and Sepp Blatter’s resignation, does FIFA seem to be on the path to a more straight and narrow approach? Or, will those outgoing simply be replaced by some new corrupt cogs in the wheel? If FIFA really is committed to righting the ship and trying to regain a shred of credibility, what can they do to stem the tide of heavy backlash from the entire sporting community?
There was never a chance for Blatter or an individual executive at FIFA to survive. The corruption allegations went too deep and, even if the charges do not result in convictions, the culture they fostered is too much to survive. The number one crisis mission is to preserve the larger organization and restore the fans trust is Soccer’s governing body. Someone of stature and international renown—followed by a busload of alcolytes of reform– needs to come in and reassemble the entire team. FIFA needs someone who is both a turnaround artist and can also import credibility to FIFA.
The interests of the advertisers and sponsors will be what determines the outcome of FIFA, as it is becoming increasingly risky to be associated with FIFA until they get better leadership.