How FIFA is losing its grip on media management

10 June 2014 -


It’s almost kick-off time in Brazil, but the governing body of world football is failing to control the agenda amid a fevered buildup to Cup action

A great deal of sporting coverage from the past couple of weeks has focused on the run up to the Brazil World Cup – but the international football community has also wrestled with the ongoing crisis over Qatar’s ambition to host the games in 2022.

A Sunday Times world exclusive on 1 June raised allegations that improper payments to FIFA officials had secured Qatar’s bid, and the paper came up with further claims a week later. However, the paper’s investigation has been but one thunderhead in a much wider media storm.

The initial accusations came just two weeks after FIFA president Sepp Blatter said of Qatar’s winning World Cup prospectus: “Of course, it was a mistake. You know, one comes across a lot of mistakes in life … The Qatar technical report indicated clearly that it is too hot in summer, but the executive committee with quite a big majority decided all the same that the tournament would be in Qatar.”

Further reports last week suggested that, on Wednesday 4 June, a FIFA investigator had met with a Qatari delegation to discuss the 2022 World Cup – with the Qatari group subsequently denying the Sunday Times story. It’s unlikely that the public will ever hear exactly what was discussed or discovered at that meeting, but there have already been calls to completely redo the 2022 draw. Some media outlets have even gone so far as to question FIFA’s very existence, with a Tuesday 3 June headline on the Guardian site urging UK football to "Cleanse FIFA of corruption by leaving it".

This week has already seen further woe engulf FIFA, with five of the organisation’s main World Cup sponsors expressing concern over alleged wrongdoing in the bidding process. The brands involved – Sony, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa and Hyundai/Kia – are some of the biggest in the world.

With just a few days to go until the first game in Brazil, FIFA might have hoped it would be lapping up positive press by now. But the organisation’s lack of clarity over the Qatar bid, and apparent inability to neutralise corruption claims, will likely mean the controversy will continue to rumble on and overshadow its World Cup summer.

Will Edwards is managing director at media training consultancy Bluewood Training

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