The FIFA Women’s World Cup starts this Saturday, June 6, when host country Canada challenges China in Edmonton. Tickets are available from Show Time Tickets and other professional sports sales organizations – but FIFA’s own online ticketing system is not functioning this week. FIFA’s management is probably too distracted with the tempest of corruption allegations, controversial confessions and press reports about criminal racketeering investigations and arrests.
The latest headlines look really, really bad – and are eclipsing coverage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup on the sports pages and in search engine rankings. A recent search for “FIFA News June 2015” produced just two reports for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the top one hundred results. Both are bad publicity. One title, “Welcome to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Group of Death” is not the kind of publicity that sponsors like to see, and it was in a respectable publication, the Winnipeg Sun. The other report confirmed that FIFA’s leaders will be absent from the June 6 Opening Ceremonies, something so bad it has never happened before.
The other FIFA news is reporting a barrage of details about FIFA’s five term President, Sepp Blatter, resigning this week following a folksy confession by former FIFA power broker Chuck Blazer that he accepted payments that look like bribes to round up votes to help South Africa win the contest to host the 2010 Men’s World Cup. Subsequently seven FIFA officials were arrested on charges of racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.
Appearances count for a lot and the ideal of fair play includes having the same laws apply the same way to everybody. But when the details are probed, the specific mechanism of making a large donation to a shady charitable foundation to win a promise of support is just not that unusual. There are thousands of so-called charities that eat up eighty or ninety percent of funds donated with administrative costs and extravagant travel for staff and trustees and very few governments did anything about it. In the past few years, the IRS in the USA has revoked the 501-c non-profit status of about half of the charities on its list, which showed the problem was a long time in the making. The serious allegations of corruption in FIFA’s bid procedures are overshadowing the fact the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a huge success for sponsors, broadcasters and the athletes themselves.
Now sponsors are having to question whether their large financial investments in supporting FIFA are a good choice. And Sony is looking like a wise decision maker for ending its FIFA sponsorship last year, before the worst news reached the headlines. VISA and its shareholders are feeling the pain already. A prospective benefit of its FIFA sponsorship is that only VISA cards can be used to buy FIFA event tickets. The 2015 tickets are not selling well, the purchases that can be done are a pain in the neck and FIFA is experiencing chaos and staff vacancies that would make any sensible person reluctant to trust the organization with protecting their credit card details from hackers. Visa’s PR contact has voice mail message saying she is on vacation until August. Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Adidas and McDonald’s are trying to be patient and encourage FIFA to fix its brand image under new leadership. One sponsor may actually come out ahead. Johnson & Johnson manufactures pain relievers. The FIFA chaos may help J&J sell a lot more Extra Strength Tylenol soon.