June 2014

How can FIFA tolerate such a bad reputation?

How can FIFA tolerate such a bad reputation?

The upcoming World Cup has most right-minded football fans feeling a mixture of emotions.  Excited about the tournament to come, but also increasing outraged and disgusted by the actions of FIFA, the sport’s governing body.

This state of mind is summed up excellently by John Oliver (in an extract from the US TV show, Last Week Tonight).  He outlines how FIFA’s approach to public safety, tax and the social impact of its tournament has led to the outrage and protests dogging the run up to kick-off.

His frustration sums up FIFA’s reputation enigma perfectly.  Most fans reject FIFA’s actions and values, but love football so much that they still ‘consume’ the product on offer.  There are similar issues with Apple and its related human rights issues and Amazon and anger over its tax policies – we don't endorse the behavior, but like the products and services too much to change.

This allows leaders such as FIFA’s Sepp Blatter to become almost Dickensian-caricatures, denying all criticism and seemingly living in a different world to the rest of us.

So does this mean that if our product is good enough we can ignore the quality of our reputation?

Of course not.  Operating with such a poor reputation is not a sustainable position for any organisation.

Ultimately stakeholders will force a change – in FIFA’s case that force might come from governments, legal challenges, local associations or the financial power of sponsors.

FIFA might have a greater reputation elasticity than most organisations thanks to the global love for its main product and having a $1 billion of reserves sitting in its bank account, but change will ultimately come.