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FIFA’s reputation suffers an own goal

Crisis management at Fifa

‘Crisis, what crisis?’ was the lament in 2011 of FIFA President Sepp Blatter when he demonstrated a patronising attitude towards the media and their questions about mismanagement and even corruption within the organisation.

At the time I wrote a blog which considered his poor handling of a reputation management issue which had appeared to leave him more damaged. It may have been naivety from what was perceived to be a highly political operator or he knew something about the accusations being made.

Instead of answering the questions and putting the issues to bed, FIFA found that the journalists were like a sore which would not go away as they continued to pursue the story. They continued plugging away to find if there was a hidden truth.

Among the results was award winning investigative journalism from the Sunday Times which has played a major role uncovering evidence of potential wrong doing while Blatter saw it as a vendetta against FIFA in retaliation of England failing to win the bid for the 2018 World Cup.

While Blatter saw this as an attack on FIFA, there came a risk of contagion among sponsors – major brands whose reputations had the potential to be damaged by association. The media looked towards how they sponsors would react and waited to see who would blink first.

The investigations underway in the US and Switzerland will ultimately reveal any wrong doing.

The failure to deal with the issues and the ostracising of the media as this scandal unfurled has had an impact on the organisation’s reputation. It will take many years, and some skilled hands, to repair.

There are a whole other set of questions to be considered as to whether the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will ever be regarded as representing the “beautiful game” and the reputation management needed by their organising committees.