FIFA movie feeds United Passions of Blatter critics
Film project puts FIFA leaders at odds with their own executives, amid “vanity project” catcalls from the media
It’s got an all-star cast and the budget to match, but you’d be forgiven for not having heard about new film United Passions.
The movie, which has a budget of almost £20 million and premiered at Cannes film festival last month, is supposed to portray a history of FIFA. However, all it seems to have done is hang further question marks over the organisation’s governance, with critics arguing that the film is nothing more than a vanity project for FIFA president, Sepp Blatter.
In a bizarre letter to FIFA members, secretary general Jerome Valcke explained that the film “portrays in an open, self-critical and highly enjoyable way the origins of Fifa … it is FIFA’s aim to promote more direct communication with the world, and especially with fans of football, to ensure that the football community at large does not have a reduced view of FIFA’s mission and objectives … we are very confident that this movie will effectively impact upon FIFA’s image and show positive results”.
The letter went on to say that Azerbaijan “will have its premiere on 4 June” – but left doubt over the film’s release date in the UK or US.
A cynic, reading between the lines of the letter, could infer that FIFA realises that it has an image problem with football fans, and even the world – but hope that spending millions of dollars of their own money to produce this film will prove to be a sound marketing exercise. But according to the Daily Mail, there was “widespread outrage among UEFA delegates” when the film was discussed.
Much of the budget presumably went on fees for the three main stars: Gerard Depardieu (playing Jules Rimet), Sam Neill (Blatter predecessor João Havelange) and Tim Roth (Blatter himself). But unless a wider release can be arranged, the movie will struggle to make the necessary returns – either in the form of ticket sales, or positive PR.
It’s been suggested that the budget FIFA put forward was committed without the knowledge of a number of executive committee members, which will add weight to accusations that Blatter runs the organisation as he sees fit, heedless of what those around him advise.
Whether the film will ever be shown in the UK is unclear, but at a time when FIFA is already dealing with the scandal of the Qatar World Cup, it seems that this marketing stunt will prove to be a very expensive mistake.
Will Edwards is managing director of media training consultancy Bluewood Training