‘Reclaim the game – Funk FIFA’


An old band makes a new return – and has the corrupt monster that is FIFA in its sights

This new number’s more than quite good

By ‘Pop Will Eat Itself’

About time we had some protest in music. And as targets, they don’t come much bigger. Rather than have me explaining in detail what it’s all about, have a look at this item from John Oliver:

If FIFA cannot be reformed, throw them out of the game – says this opinion piece in the New York Times.

A childhood based around football

I blogged about it here in 2012. I still remember a priest at my old church complaining that the youth football season meant that families would take their children to football matches rather than church. I ended up stuck in the latter because there were no volunteers at my first youth football club (“Cambridge Crusaders” – we trained on Coleridge Rec, little did I know that a quarter of a century later I’d be standing for election there) to continue coaching us. So yes, football mattered. The distractions of a couple of international tournaments around exam time probably cost me a couple of grades for GCSE and A-Levels too.

Keeping politics out of football

One of the early principles of FIFA was to keep politics out of football. Part of the aim was to keep vicious despotic dictatorships that had a habit of torturing players that performed badly in tournaments out of the game. If only the public had known about this at the time. Yet despite its negative connotations, international organisations need transparency and accountability to stop them going out of control. FIFA is out of control. But how to you ensure the best features of politics get applied to FIFA without the worst bits joining for the ride? At the moment, we only have the worst bits.

In the UK, we have a tradition of self-governing bodies. Courts don’t like to get involved in dispute resolution of things that have happened on the pitch or as part of disciplinary proceedings. When it comes to having poor systems of governance and administration, the English FA has got form – The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee giving them a kicking in 2013. That’s why complaints from the FA about FIFA’s poor governance…exactly. Note too that some of the FA’s official sponsors (see here) are also listed as some of FIFA’s official sponsors.

Buying independence from democratic oversight through the slush funds of sponsors

Now, we’ve been here before – see my blogpost on sponsors and London 2012. Part of the deal for London getting the games was that we’d change our laws and give multinationals and the organisers lots of tax breaks. The amount of money multinational brands have thrown at FIFA and the International Olympic Committee has allowed them to have independence from governments and parliaments. How are FIFA held accountable for the for the financial reserves that are now measured in billions? I’ve always liked the principle of ‘If your firms are multinational, your regulator needs to be – and that regulator needs to be accountable to the people of the world’. Of course how you do that is a damn sight more complicated. But it matters.

Feeding the behemoth which is coming back to bite them

This is what has happened to the sponsors – they’re all listed here. When Bloomberg is reporting that your sponsors are unhappy, you’ve got a problem. A big problem. But the sponsors are part of the problem. They’ve failed to insist on proper corporate governance. But then one or two of those sponsors have got ‘issues’ themselves when it comes to human rights. Sponsors have fed this unaccountable monster of an organisation for years without insisting on improvements to corporate governance until it has been too late.

Replacing Brazilian culture with bland featureless globalised culture of the 1%

FIFA has banned samba drums from World Cup matches. Yeah. My thoughts exactly. (I love samba so much I even wrote a blogpost about it!) Not only that, the ‘anthem’ FIFA have come up with has not gone down too well in Brazil either – see here. For me, part of the fun of the World Cup is that you have the crowds bringing in their instruments. The Scots (during the years when they’d regularly qualify) bringing bagpipes with the Brazilian drums was something that Dario G picked up on in their epic Carneval de Paris in 1998. Today, in the era of tickets going to the disinterested guests of official sponsors and delegations, expect to have the sort of atmosphere slammed by Roy Keane. But it’s not the prawn sandwich brigade. It’s the champers and exotic endangered fish eggs brigade. Football’s the bit-part. FIFA and international tournament organisers cannot have their cake and eat it. They cannot expect to have an exciting and vibrant atmosphere while handing over large allocations of tickets to people not passionate about the event or the activity. Remember the early days of London 2012 and all those empty seats?

How do you make football – or any international sport accountable to ‘the people’?

The solution – and the principles around it are straight forward: Make FIFA and national associations directly accountable to supporters’ federations – such as the FSF in England. One other alternative – for the EU in particular is for the European Parliament to declare competency over UEFA as part of strengthening democratic oversight over Europe-wide institutions. Yes, that goes against the political tide in the recent European elections, but think what a positive impact it could have if talented MEPs (and there are talented ones out there, despite what the media might imply) cross-examining UEFA and FIFA executives on an annual basis.

One of the big underlying problems with FIFA at the moment is they are not seen to be accountable to anyone. No institution can haul Sepp Blatter and his executives in front of a committee and subject him to detailed and critical cross-examination. In the UK I’d go further and have the executive directors and chairpersons of the Football Association, the FA Premier League and the Football League appearing annually before the Committee on Culture, Media and Sport upon publication of their annual reports – taking evidence from sports journalists and supporters’ associations on what issues the Committee should raise. You never know, it might get people interested in other political issues and the functioning of politics in general.

“Do you want the tournament to fail?”

For the fans, no. Of course I want everyone passionate about the game and excited about the World Cup to feel the sort of excitement I had when my class at primary school prepared for Italia ’90 – and to have lots of fun! Like the participants in this unofficial video seem to be having!

For some in Brazil – the ones who’ve lost their homes in the clearances, or those that lost their lives building the stadia and infrastructure and who won’t get justice…exactly. That’s to say nothing of FIFA running off with all the money – tax free. How a clique of men (and it is mainly men) that live a jet-set lifestyle in five-star hotels can have connections with the grass roots of football is beyond me. Blatter’s not doing himself any favours with statements like this. Astonishing.

I hope Brazil 2014 marks the start of where the fans across the world started the fight back against the parasites sucking the lifeblood out of the beautiful game. Let’s have the game run by and for the people who care about football, not the institutions that imprison it. The tragedy for Brazil is that the person who had a plan, the calibre of person, the intellect and an awesome footballing and democratic pedigree for overhauling things over there back in 2002 (see here) is no longer with us. Dr Socrates died in 2011. But at least Brazil had an inspiration for both change in football as well as for democracy and social justice. If England has an equivalent, I’ve not found him.



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