American Imperialism & Blatter's Last Stand

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 5/29/2015 01:30:00 AM
A match made in hell: Gazprom & FIFA.
One good post on battle over futbol mundial deserves another: I am constantly surprised by the amount of global attention the governance of FIFA has received these past few days. On the surface, the politics of an international sporting organization headquartered in Europe should be of limited interest to the rest of the world. For the most part, we watch the World Cup every four years and that's that. Dig below the surface, however, and there is much, much more at stake: the West versus the rest, the corrupting influence of big money, and the governance of global institutions. Let us examine each of these in turn.

(1) To no one's surprise, Russian President Vladimir Putin sees the United States' move to prosecute FIFA officials on corruption charges as an effort to scotch the 2018 World Cup in Sochi. As with most Putin narratives, there's a whiff of conspiracy theory, but read for yourselves:
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of meddling in FIFA's affairs and hinted that it was part of an attempt to take the 2018 World Cup away from his country. Putin said in televised comments Thursday that he found it "odd" that the probe was launched at the request of U.S. officials for crimes which do not involve its citizens and did not happen in the United States...

Putin said even if "someone has done something wrong," Russia "has nothing to do with it." He then tried to portray the probe as a U.S. attempt to go after dissenters, likening the case to the persecution of whistleblowers Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. "Our American counterparts, unfortunately, are using the same methods to reach their goals and illegally persecute people. I don't rule out that this is the case in relation to FIFA," Putin said. "I have no doubt that this is yet another evident attempt to derail Mr. Blatter's re-election as FIFA president. We are aware of the pressure that he was subjected to in relation to Russia holding the 2018 World Cup."
Just as I predicted in the earlier post, the losers will portray this action as American imperialism in cowing Swiss authorities to follow suit. The long arm of America is not yet gone, evidently. 

(2) Actually, Blatter seems to have perceived American resentment at him before the arrests. Earlier this month, he wanted to hold the next few games outside of Europe (UEFA), making the US obviously the front-runner for another American event:
FIFA President Sepp Blatter wants to implement a rule that would prevent Europe from bidding for the 2026 World Cup, improving the chances of the United States to host the tournament. The FIFA executive committee could agree this month to block continental confederations from bidding for the following two World Cups after hosting. ''It should be this way,'' Blatter said Friday, adding that the proposal is ''more than an option.''
(3) On the CSR end, perhaps the United States will ultimately undermine Blatter's leadership most by hitting FIFA where hurts most--the millions in sponsorship money it rakes in each year from corporate sponsors. Some of these sponsors are real stinkers who couldn't care less like Putin's toadies at Gazprom. Obviously, American companies will be more sensitive to their home government's actions. What's most interesting are the neither here nor there firms in Europe like Adidas. At any rate, sponsors apper to be reassessing their options:
Visa Inc., a leading FIFA partner since 2007, said that the twin U.S. and Swiss investigations into alleged corruption that resulted in the arrest of seven soccer officials here Wednesday could prompt the company to end its agreement. Visa’s current deal runs until 2022.

Urging the organization to make sweeping change, Visa said overnight that FIFA needed to rebuild “a culture with strong ethical practices to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.” “Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship,” it added.
Other top sponsors such as Adidas AG, Coca-Cola Co. and McDonald’s Corp. all said they were monitoring the situation, while Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. said it was “deeply concerned” about the allegations. FIFA earns $177 million a year from its marketing partners, according to its 2014 financial results.
See here for other sponsors' thoughts on FIFA/Blatter. Being a firm believer in the notion that money talks, I ultimately believe that Blatter's fate lies in the hands of FIFA's sponsors. I am convinced that the US making a big stink about arresting FIFA officials in an international extradition was partly designed to draw attention to governance issues among the sponsors.

It's very interesting stuff, and let's see in a few moments whether Blatter's previously assumed rubber-stamping as president will actually happen.

5/30 UPDATE:  Blatter wins a fifth term, to no one's real surprise. Having spread FIFA largesse to small member nations, it was inevitable since votes are weighted according to, say, revenues.