FIFA Struggling to Regain Sponsors’ Trust
Business may not be going to well with FIFA, once rated as the most buoyant sporting organisation in the world. According to Associated Press, even a year after a change of leadership was effected, FIFA is still pleading with the world: Trust us.
For this reason, it has been a great task trying to sell the sponsorship of its lead bran, the World Cup which final tournament is barely a year from now.
According to the report, Gianni Infatino, at the second congress he is presiding over, had to constantly echo the refrain: “crisis is over” to the gathering of soccer’s 211 nations.
The AP reports that criminal investigations are still exposing shady transactions of the past.
The suitability of members of the ruling council remains in doubt. Reforms intended to curb the powers of the president and restore FIFA’s credibility are being eroded.
Against this backdrop, FIFA has been trying to persuade commercial backers to sign up after so many were scared off by the corruption that plagued the Sepp Blatter era.
FIFA’s leadership was able to start its congress week in Bahrain by trumpeting the arrival of Qatar Airways to fill the airline sponsorship category that has been vacant for more than two years.
But the deal was anticipated given it is the state-owned carrier of the 2022 World Cup hosts.
A true test of the confidence of FIFA’s new hierarchy will come when major international corporations sign up that are not from China, Russia or Qatar — the source of all of FIFA’s new World Cup deals in recent years.
New sponsors in traditional strongholds like Japan and the United States have yet to convince shareholders they should partner with a scandal-tainted organization.
Many were scared off in 2015 when FIFA’s reputation was shredded by widespread bribery being exposed after high-ranking executives were arrested in Zurich hotel raids.
“We hope that more (sponsors) will come before the end of the year,” FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura told The Associated Press.
“That was a strong signal from Qatar Airways to recognize the new leadership of FIFA is working toward restoring the image of FIFA and that there is climate of trust that is really here to push for more partnerships.”
Trust, according to Samoura, also comes through a new generation of officials being elected to the FIFA Council.
“It’s a strong demonstration that gender empowerment,” Samoura said, pointing to Mahfuza Akhter of Bangladesh being elected on Tuesday as Asia’s female representative at FIFA.
It was a surprise result. Moya Dodd, an outspoken critic of corruption and prominent champion of women’s football, lost to Akhter, who couldn’t name the Women’s World Cup holder in a post-election interview.
American soccer stars Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd were among those to express surprise at the setback for Dodd, an Australian lawyer who is still on the Asian Football Confederation executive committee.
“I’m sure she will land on her feet somehow in football,” said Samoura, who was hired last year as FIFA’s first female secretary general.
“She has football in her heart and I’m sure that FIFA or another confederation or her home federation will continue to make good use of her skills.”
Those skills were used by a reform committee in 2015 that helped to reshape FIFA following the U.S. Department of Justice indictments of soccer officials.
The progress of some reforms, however, appears to have stalled — despite Infantino helping to draft them in the FIFA-appointed advisory panel while he was a presidential candidate.
Power should have drained from the presidency to the CEO-like secretary general, but Infantino has retained a Blatter-like grip on executive authority.
A new FIFA Bureau that was not on the reform program now has given more authority to Infantino and the six regional confederation leaders, whose decisions need not be ratified by a 37-strong council that replaced the discredited executive committee.
“That can be the appearance,” CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani said, “but I think the collaborations at the council level and the discussions are quite healthy.
“The bureau is there to act in between when the council meets. If there are decisions that are needed on a timely basis for operational issues they have to be made.”
The most recent addition to the bureau and council is Ahmad, who ended Issa Hayatou’s 29-year grip on power in Africa in March.