Attitudes to corruption differ across the globe. Attitudes to sponsorship money do not.

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Just how “beautiful” is the “beautiful game” of football these days?  Is the game still beautiful when it pretty much tolerates diving and penalty baiting and requires huge amounts of cash to pacify morally questionable prima donnas? 

Most fans would probably still say “yes it is”, especially following Barcelona’s performance last week – arguably the most beautiful football team since 1970’s Brazil side.

But the current controversy around Fifa won’t go away and threatens to make even the most devout football worshipper fall slightly out of love with the game.

Sepp Blatter, Fifa’s President, is all over the news as I write.  His smoothing over of bribery allegations engulfing football’s governing body has resulted in righteous indignation throughout the British press.  The story has moved from the Sports Sections to the news and business sections as some of the biggest sponsors of football in the world raise their concerns. 

Coca-Cola has said that the current allegations are “distressing and bad for the sport”.  Adidas have commented that the negative publicity is “neither good for football nor for Fifa and its partners”.

Blatter has so far been apparently nonchalant about the allegations.  The Sun comments :” … incredibly Blatter defied the storm of sleaze engulfing FIFA – insisting it all was still BEAUTIFUL in the game.”


One thing we need to remember when trying to make sense of this story is that attitudes to corruption vary from nation to nation.   The Global Integrity Report for 2010 just published (at makes the differences worldwide clear.  The report doesn’t measure corruption per se by nation but assesses good governance and anti-corruption mechanisms across the globe.  Scores vary by nation from the maximum of 100 to lows of 25 in the latest report. 

When we read with some surprise that members of Fifa member Nicholas Leoz’s entourage suggested that he’d only come to London to watch the FA Cup Final if the cup was renamed after him, we must be careful surely not to be too parochial in our perspective. 

But if attitudes to corruption vary by nation, attitudes to sponsorship dollars do not. 

Although we do not usually look to major multinational corporations to set our moral compass, in this case Fifa’s sponsors may be able to play the role of ethical global policemen.  Blatter may be able nonchalantly to bat away questions aimed at him by journalists; but he won’t be able to do the same to the people who help to fund the global game.

The image of the sport is tarnished not by the allegations against Fifa but by Fifa’s dismissal of those allegations.  It is unquestionably a useful thing for the the big global brands who are sponsors of the game to ask questions of Fifa.  It is to be hoped that they will continue to ask those questions until Fifa, like Caesar’s wife, isn’t just not caught in the act but is beyond suspicion.

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