Probably about the only surprising thing about the FIFA corruption scandal which hit the headlines this week is that fact that it really should come as no surprise at all.
Stories about backhanders and illicit deals at the governing body of the so called “beautiful game” have been doing the rounds for decades. As far back as 1974 Brian Glanville controversially wrote in The Sunday Times of FIFA operating through a system of small brown envelopes going into large black hands.
FIFA’s public response to the arrests by the FBI and Swiss Police seemed to be driven by panic. I find that surprising as they must have seen this day coming and should surely have had a well rehearsed crisis communications plan in place.
The reaction of FIFA’s main sponsors (Coca Cola, Visa, Adidas, etc) also leaves a great deal to be desired. It really isn’t good enough for them to simply throw their hands up in mock horror and claim that they knew nothing about it.
Amongst all the media coverage of the arrests in Zurich, another equally worrying football story seemed to get buried. A politician in Moscow admitted that Russia is considering the use of prison labour to keep down the cost of building the stadia for the 2018 World Cup. Taken alongside the ongoing stories of slave labour being used to build the infrastructure for the 2022 tournament in Qatar, it all looks very shameful indeed.
I have written before in these posts about my growing disillusionment with football and the increasing inability of the people who run the game to restore any sense of decency or credibility to it.
No crisis communications campaign is going to help FIFA recover from this mess. In Britain, we like to think that we gave the game to the world. Now we need to take the initiative and save it for the world.
Perhaps the FA, together with its Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish partners, should withdraw from FIFA and look to set up an alternative, and ethical, governing body for international football? It might be that we would have to miss out on participating in the next two World Cups, but that would be no great loss and would be a price worth paying if it cleaned up the “beautiful game”.