How Can FIFA President Gianni Infantino Improve FIFA's Tarnished Image

By Clinch, Nanette; Pagani, Marco et al. | Journal of Critical Incidents, Annual 2016 | Go to article overview

How Can FIFA President Gianni Infantino Improve FIFA's Tarnished Image


Clinch, Nanette, Pagani, Marco, Osland, Asbjorn, Journal of Critical Incidents


Introduction

When Giovanni Infantino, a member of the United European Football Association (UEFA) since 2000, was appointed as president of Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in 2016 (FIFA.com, 2016), he made elimination of any vestiges of organizational corruption a goal. FIFA had to clean up its organizational culture of corruption and regain the trust of the public, including sponsors (Esteri & Futterman, 2015). How could Infantino work to regain the trust of sponsors?

FIFA Scandal

FIFA, an association founded in 1904 and based in Switzerland, was governed by Swiss law. It had 211 member associations dedicated to the improvement of football (or soccer, as it was known in the U.S.). It spent roughly USD 550,000 daily to support the various associations' activities, one of which was to organize international soccer competitions culminating in the FIFA World Cup[TM] (FIFA, 2016). 2014 revenues for FIFA were estimated at USD 2.096 billion (Totalsportek2, 2016).

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the indictment that alleged corruption in FIFA both abroad and in the United States (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2015). The defendants were charged with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies (U.S. Department of Justice, 2015). Two pled guilty in May, 2015 (U.S. Department of Justice, 2015). As alleged in the indictment, "FIFA and its six continental confederations, together with sports marketing companies, [constituted] an enterprise of legal entities associated in fact for purposes of the federal racketeering laws" (U.S. Department of Justice, 2015). FIFA sold marketing rights, which amounted to 70 percent of FIFA's total revenues between 2011 and 2014. In the process, soccer officials allegedly engaged in systematic bribery totaling over $150 million paid by sports marketing officials (U.S. Department of Justice, 2015).

Initially, FIFA appeared to be blind to public opinion, looking internally for leadership in an organization permeated by alleged corruption. The two top individuals in FIFA were suspended for 90 days in October, 2015. FIFA's choice for replacing them was a 69-year old FIFA veteran, Issa Hayatou, who required regular kidney dialysis. In 2011, Mr. Hayatou himself had been reprimanded by the International Olympic Committee for a scandal involving FIFA kickbacks.

What Should Sponsors Do?

One sponsor, Puma, believed the South African Football Association had engaged in match fixing, and Puma suspended its sponsorship. But then Nike became the uniform and equipment supplier for the South African national team (Ewing, 2015). If FIFA rebuilt its brand, then sponsors would no longer risk being complicit in corruption. …

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