By Tony Attwood
We’ve often moaned about the media’s lack of coverage of corruption in football, and their endless desire to paint everything from PGMO to Fifa as whiter than white.
But what about the sponsors of Fifa, who have known how corrupt and awful the whole operation has been all these years?
Doesn’t anyone – the journalists, the sponsors, the broadcast stations, actually care that they are endlessly talking up an appalling corrupt organisation.
As might be expected Fifa sponsors, such as Adidas, Visa and Coca-Cola, are calling for Fifa to reform. Visa issued a statement on Wednesday expressing its “disappointment and concern with Fifa”. Oh dear.
It said that unless Fifa rebuilds a corporate culture with “strong ethical practices” at its heart, “we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship”.
And will that make us reform our view of Visa? No, I think not. Better to remind ourselves of who the Fifa sponsors are, so we can know how much contempt we have been treated with and by whom. In my view, if you take from Fifa or give to Fifa you are tainted.
Here’s the list
Adidas, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Hyundai, Sony, Visa, Castrol, Continental, McDonalds, Johnson and Johnson.
Coca-Cola said: “This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the Fifa World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations.”
Yes and I say, fine, so why didn’t you do something? McDonald’s, meanwhile, said it was monitoring the situation but was too fat and too ill actually to move.
In a sense the sponsors, like the journalists and the FA have both been totally caught off guard for the simple reason that treating us, the fans, the people who pay to go and watch football, with utter and constant contempt.
As I have noted the key point in all this was a change in the law in Switzerland which allowed the arrests to happen. Quite possibly it was the fact that journalists universally refused to or failed to recognise the huge significance of that change in the law which encouraged Fifa executives to think that they could get away with another booze up in Geneva.
The fact is that until now Fifa executives have been immune. Governments bowed down to their insane demands about no taxation for any activity surrounding the World Cup, assocations like the FA threw away millions of pounds bidding for the World Cup, and all the time the media utterly refused to call our FA to account for the way they continue to court Fifa.
And all the while the broadcasters and journalists have reported on Fifa activities with glee. Instead of saying, “the football is good but Fifa is disgraceful, disgusting and something else starting with d that I can’t think of at the moment”, they have endlessly talked up Fifa and its products.
A walk out by countries has always been possible, but the thought of bathing in the pig sty with Blatter and co was always too much of an inducement. They always wanted one more handbag, one more gold watch, one more champagne event. At our expense.
So the media, despite occasionally pointing out Fifa excesses, always refused to follow up the implications of Fifa’s eternal outrages, because the FA were involved, and they all wanted another holiday covering the world cup in some exotic resort.
Indeed it can be argued that the few commentaries that there were against Fifa (such as the regular pieces in the Observer under the “Said and Done” column harmed the work of those of us who have campaigned against Fifa, but somehow making it all seem ok and normal. The corruption was there, everyone knew, it became acceptable.
This was probably why no one picked up on our story about the change in Swiss law. There was an absolute belief that nothing would change, nothing would happen, it wouldn’t really mean anything.
Besides, who cares if a bunch of young women were thrown in prison in South Africa without even being subject to local laws, all for wearing the wrong t-shirts? Who cares if the stadia in South Africa and Brazil rot, empty. Shall we make a big fuss? No, better not. We did – I remember Walter’s outrage at the case on 15 June 2010. It is worth re-reading, if you’ve forgotten it.
So we have had years of self-censorship, or occasionally tittle tattle.
Just look at the stories that were doing the rounds just before the arrests were made. “Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, has refused to set foot in the US for almost four years due to a continuing investigation by the FBI, according to a major new ESPN documentary.” (The Guardian, 13 May)
The Guardian actually did have an insight into what might be up, as they published, “Sources have also told the Guardian that US investigators have been in touch with Swiss prosecutors over their investigation,” but they just couldn’t be arsed to read Untold and find the magic link – the change in Swiss law that allowed the Americans to request the arrests.
The “Blatter won’t go to America” was a ludicrous story because it was palpably irrelevant once the Swiss law was changed – but hey, finding out about the law change meant reading one little blog, or else keeping an eye on world events, and who is going to do that?
But that’s the problem. Once a story like “Blatter won’t go” gets going, what do they all do? Do they investigate? No of course not. They copy each other.
It became in fact quite a prominant story around the world. “Blatter to Visit US in 2016, Rejects Talk of Avoiding FBI …” said ABC News, and the story filtered down to a few other media outlets. Bleacher Report went with Sepp Blatter Reportedly Wary of Entering United States while Sky got in on the act with FIFA insist president Sepp Blatter is not avoiding travel to … Fox News seemed to get an exclusive insight with FIFA president Blatter plans visit US in June 2016, but they were probably just on another planet.
The Independent has tried to cover its failure to spot what was going on in advance with the utterly bizarre headline ENGLAND ‘FAVOURITES’ TO HOST 2018 WORLD CUP – a headline that thankfully has little to do with the story that follows.
They also give us the headline “Why have these arrests happened now?” and then provide the utterly astonishing response, “Because enough important people were gathered in one place.”
Errrrrr? Law change?