POSTED: June 7th 2011

JOHN GOODBODY: IOC and sponsors should tell FIFA some home truths

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

LONDON, Jun 08:  The location of the meetings was in the same country. The crisis was similar. The presidents had both dominated their two organisations for more than a decade and received votes of confidence from their members. But the mood of the two sessions was different.

In March 1999, the International Olympic Committee met in Lausanne to expel six of their members in the Salt Lake City ‘cash-for-votes’ scandal and to transform the voting procedures for cities wanting to host the Games.

The changes were driven through by Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was to remain president for another two years until he voluntarily stepped down.

Last week, in Zurich, Sepp Blatter was re-elected the president of FIFA, easily sport’s most wealthy and powerful federation, in a situation as equally controversial as that which faced the IOC 12 years ago.

Two of the executive committee, Amos Adamu of Nigeria, and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, had been suspended following alleged accusations of impropriety, as had two other exco members, Jack Warner of Trinidad and Mohammad bin Hamman of Qatar, over allegations that they colluded to buy votes in the election for $40,000, while an e-mail was released from the FIFA secretary-general, Jerome Valcke, stating that Qatar had bought the 2022 World Cup.

Bin Hamman stood down as a rival to Blatter’s presidency, which was duly confirmed for another four years.

The difference between 1999 and 2011 was the mood of contrition of many IOC members and its president 12 years ago. Last week, there was little regret shown by either Blatter or FIFA members. Instead the mood was one of defiant bravado that anyone could possibly question the moral rectitude of the governing body of the world’s most popular game.

Governing body

This summary dismissal of complaints came despite some of FIFA’s partners expressing their concern at the controversy surrounding the sport’s governing body. Those partners, Coca-Cola, Adidas, Emirates, Hyundai, Sony and Visa, companies who believe in ethical behaviour in business, should be rightly ashamed that they are now associated with such a discredited organisation as FIFA.

And they should have made their views known more quickly and more vociferously than they have done in the last few days.

Now they should collectively meet with FIFA to leave their disapproval absolutely clear. This is what happened with the Olympic partners when the IOC was in turmoil in 1999.

Of course, international football is such a strong brand that these companies may not want to endanger their relations with FIFA in case rivals, such Pepsi-Cola, Nike and Samsung, are granted preferred status when the current contracts end.

This is possible. However, those companies, who are envious of becoming FIFA partners, will also be well aware that the world body’s status in advertising terms is low and likely to continue so in the near future.

In 1999, Samaranch certainly appeared far more sensitive to the mood of the sponsors, who, it is true, regard Olympism as possessing some ethical qualities that is not intrinsic to international federations, such as Fifa.

D Jacques Rogge, who approved Samaranch’s measures to curb the activities of some of his fellow members and then succeeded the Spaniard as IOC president in 2001, believes that FIFA can emerge stronger.

It is to be hoped that FIFA has learned some lessons, although this is doubtful. In any case the IOC should spell it out to FIFA – either privately or publicly. Football is an Olympic sport and the IOC has a moral duty to make its views absolutely clear.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2008 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 11th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001

Keywords · Goodbody · IOC · FIFA

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.