Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you know that Sepp Blatter has resigned as the President of FIFA amidst the arrests of various FIFA officials for allegedly accepting bribes and the corruption of the organization moving to the forefront of world news. This is despite winning re-election on Friday shortly after the negative news went public. No doubt, this is an image nightmare for even the most optimistic PR specialist. However, there are certain organizations breathing a sigh of relief thanks to this recent news.
According to the Wall Street Journal, several of FIFA’s largest corporate sponsors, Coca Cola Co., Visa Inc., and Adidas AG have all made statements welcoming the end of Blatter’s 17 year reign as chief of world soccer’s governing body. This is after all three organizations took tremendous heat for not dropping their deals with FIFA after the corruption scandal became official. In other sports and even other moments in soccer, sponsorships fade away as soon as an athlete or organization turn bad for business. Intriguingly, FIFA has been able to contradict this model.
Prior to the FIFA presidential election, U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati boldly supported Sepp Blatter’s top competition, Prince Ali, even at the cost of losing a future World Cup bid. Gulati was quoted by the New York Times as saying “Would I like to see the United States host a World Cup in the future? The answer is, of course, yes. But for me, and for U.S. Soccer, better governance and more integrity at Concacaf and FIFA are far more important than hosting any international soccer tournament.” The World Cup could prove to be a huge economic boom and boost for soccer’s popularity in this country if the event were once again hosted here for the first time since 1994. Giving up this chance for the sake of ethics is an admirable, but unfortunately idealistic idea.
According to Forbes, in the four years leading up to the 2014 World Cup, FIFA was able to amass $5.72 billion in sponsorship deals and media rights. In 2014, official jersey sponsors of FIFA gave $190 million primarily due to the popularity and strength of the World Cup. In many ways, FIFA has grown too big to fail. Even with all the negative publicity, business is still good for sponsors. Despite the most ethical efforts by reformers like the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Swiss government, money talks. Money is the cause of FIFA’s publicity woes, but money could continue to fuel this machine of controversy even after Blatter is gone. When the money stops rolling in, the corrupt officials just might start to listen.