The supreme leader sails on; but where did it all go wrong for FIFA?

June 14, 2014, Taylor & Francis

FIFA claims to stand for the four 'core values' of authenticity, unity, performance, and integrity. But in recent years the leaders of world football have encountered waves of allegations concerning unaccountable and often corrupt administrative practices. Drawing upon exclusive interviews and oral evidence, a University of Brighton academic, Professor Alan Tomlinson, argues that those 'core values' have now been lost. Writing in the journal Sport in Society, Tomlinson claims that it is the tenure of the two presidents, since 1974, which has seen the transformation of FIFA from an INGO (an international non-governmental organization) to a BINGO, a business-oriented international non-governmental organization. A transformation which has created a culture in which unaccountability and corruption can thrive.

In his article, "The supreme leader sails on: leadership, ethics and governance in FIFA", Tomlinson explores how the leadership style, structure and values of FIFA have changed over the years. FIFA was led for its first 70 years at presidential level by volunteer idealists, six men who saw their roles in FIFA as forms of public service, believing that had the capability to cultivate relations between countries and nations. The following 38 years produced just two presidents: João Havelange (1974 –1998) and Sepp Blatter (1998 – present).

Tomlinson shows that it is in this era of presidential tenure when the game transformed into the modern global spectacle that we see today. Havelange realised the full commercial potential of sport in a global market and opened up the influence of the game to new media and markets. Blatter (a faithful employee of Havelange for almost quarter of a century) succeeded him as president in 1998, and continued with Havelange's business acumen and marketing vision for professional sport. It is argued that the combination of FIFA's transformation into a business-oriented organisation and the strength of autocratic power held by the president which has made FIFA vulnerable to the forms of exploitation which have resulted in allegations of corruption during Blatter's presidency. The democratic structure of FIFA – one country/ association one vote - is easily manipulated as rewards can be given to small associations in return for their support and vote.

Is change possible or, as Tomlinson suggests, is the gap between the stated goals of the organization and the practices of its leadership and core administration so entrenched that the mission statement is now little more than puffed-up rhetoric and hyperbole?

Explore further: Is the FIFA World cup qualification a fair game?

More information: The supreme leader sails on: leadership, ethics and governance in FIFA, Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics Volume 17, Issue 9, 2014, DOI: 10.1080/17430437.2013.856590

Related Stories

Is the FIFA World cup qualification a fair game?

June 11, 2014

In their new article, "Unfair play in World Cup qualification? An analysis of the 1998–2010 FIFA World Cup performances and the bias in the allocation of tournament berths", Christian Stone and Michel Rod studied the match ...

Biggest World Cup comeback so far: beer

June 14, 2014

Brazil fought hard when FIFA insisted it overturn its ban on alcohol in stadiums, but the World Cup hosts lost, and with the tournament now under way it's official: beer is back.

FIFA pick GoalControl for Confederations Cup

April 2, 2013

Football's world governing body on Tuesday said that German company GoalControl will provide the goal-line technology at this year's Confederations Cup in Brazil.

Recommended for you

Study sheds new light on ancient human-turkey relationship

January 17, 2018

For the first time, research has uncovered the origins of the earliest domestic turkeys in ancient Mexico. The study also suggests turkeys weren't only prized for their meat—with demand for the birds soaring with the Mayans ...

Lifting barriers to citizenship for low-income immigrants

January 15, 2018

Taking the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony is an emotional moment for many immigrants, and for good reason: it is the culmination of an often arduous process and many years of striving. Citizenship also opens ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Jun 14, 2014
Not an unusual state of affairs. In the social science milieu, show me a single instance where there's an aggregation of money and corruption is not chasing after it. Like rust, corruption never sleeps.
not rated yet Jun 14, 2014
Like the Olympics, American professional and collegiate sports; it's all about the money and all other considerations are tertiary
not rated yet Jun 14, 2014
Like the Olympics, American professional and collegiate sports; it's all about the money and all other considerations are tertiary

What is sport? For athletes, it may be about conquest, personal best, glory, endorsements later on. For everyone else, its entertainment. What's entertainment? Business. What's business? The endeavor of turning some money into some MORE money.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.