Tag Archives: FIFA

Another FIFA Fail

I read a mind-blowing story over the weekend about how not to treat a customer. Actually, how not to treat THOUSANDS of customers. Then again, considering the organization that was doing the “treating”, in retrospect I shouldn’t have been so shocked as they hit a new low. But still…

The Women’s World Cup begins in a few weeks. FIFA, which many in the world of sports consider to be just a big criminal conspiracy (too many cases to list here) began distributing tickets to customers around the world. The rest would be comical is it wasn’t so sad:

With the tournament in France due to start on 7 June, Fifa announced on Monday that tickets were now available to print at home. This led in some instances to complaints from people who, having assumed they had bought tickets together, discovered this was not the case.

“Dear fans. We have noted some of your comments, re: your tickets,” read a message on the tournament’s official Twitter account. “When you placed your order, a message indicating not all seats would be located next to each other did appear, before confirmation of your purchase. Unfortunately we will not be able to modify your order.

So if you spent years saving up to take your daughter to see the best women in the world play, you might have to let her experience that joy whilst seated several sections away from you and from your wife who may be in a different part of the stadium completely. FIFA’s response: we don’t really care.

A few things. First, this would NEVER happen for a Men’s World Cup. FIFA has a history of telling the women to piss off while paying lip service to their game. They made the women play a World Cup on artificial turf and who can forget the head of FIFA’s suggestion that women boost the game by playing in tighter shorts and makeup. Second, even if they weren’t such sexist pigs, ticket sales make up a smallish percentage of FIFA’s World Cup revenues. TV and sponsorship are the big tickets here and unless and until the broadcasters and sponsors speak up, the dismissive attitude to the real fans won’t change.

FIFA has a history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and they’ve done it again. We’ve been through this many times in this space but no business can afford to tell customers, no matter how small a part of the revenue picture that customer may be, that they don’t matter. People traveling to these games are among FIFA’s best customers. Do you still think they’ll continue to spend money with FIFA after this? Most of us can distinguish between supporting the game via our attention and supporting the people who run it with our cash. Fortunately for them, FIFA has no real competition. Can you say the same?

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All FIFA-ed Up

One of my favorite movies is Casablanca. It came to mind last week as the FIFA scandal unfolded. Soccer fan or not, you’re probably aware of the indictments issued (with more to come) against high-ranking administrators and marketing executives. If you’re not the details are here.

Casablanca? Yes:

That was, in essence, the response by Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, who claims to have had no clue such corruption was going on.  I’ll wait while you stop laughing, but this really is no laughing matter.  We are watching a major sports organization implode and there are billions of dollars involved.  It is a classic PR crisis, and one thing you can’t do in this situation is to go dark and allow others to dictate the conversation.  That is, however, exactly what the brain trust at FIFA is doing:

A quick look into Socialbakers Analytics tells us that that’s not what was going through the minds of FIFA’s PR team: out of the almost 8000 questions posed to them on Twitter in just under last month, they’ve responded to zero.

That’s from the Social Bakers blog.  Into that vacuum you have one of the indicted executives citing a piece in The Onion as supporting his innocence and several of FIFA’s corporate sponsors have expressed dismay while threatening to pull their financial support.  After all, brands sponsor sports in part so they can transfer the goodwill that fans feel for the sport to the brand’s equity.  When that goodwill vanishes, the brand is damaged as well.

What should they be doing?  I’m not a PR expert but I know silence is not an option.  The few messages they’ve put out there have been met with ridicule and the reelection of the man at the head of the organization, who claims he can clean it up, is widely seen as a negative.

“You can’t just ask everybody to behave ethically just like that in the world in which we live,” Blatter said in his opening remarks to the FIFA congress. “We cannot constantly supervise everybody that is in football,” he added. “That is impossible.”

Really?  Most big companies with which I’ve worked do exactly that, and the stench of corruption has been around the beautiful game for as long as I’ve worked in sports.  Staying silent in a crisis is bad.  Making statements that deny culpability (FIFA is trying to argue that all the problems are with other soccer organizations, not FIFA) is worse.  As with Louis in Casablanca, what’s been going on is very obvious and as the old line goes, I’m choosing to believe my lying eyes over FIFA.  You?

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Why Is Wrong In Life OK In Business?

I had something else planned for today’s screed but after getting through the newspapers over the weekend I changed my mind. I don’t know if it’s struck you as it has me but I’m really surprised how many business stories are about willful acts of corruption and greed. One could, in fact, make the argument that much of the economic crisis in which nearly every country finds itself has at its root exactly that cause. Is there anyone left who thinks the housing bubble and mortgage crisis was an accident?

Let me give you a few examples, just from yesterday’s newspaper:

Goldman Sachs and the $580 Million Black Hole – a story of how Goldman may have negligently mismanaged a company’s sale and sold it to con men:

With Goldman Sachs on the job, the corporate takeover of Dragon Systems in an all-stock deal went terribly wrong. Goldman collected millions of dollars in fees — and the Bakers lost everything when Lernout & Hauspie was revealed to be a spectacular fraud.

Then there is the LIBOR case:

Authorities around the globe are examining whether financial firms manipulated interest rates before and after the financial crisis to improve their profits and deflect scrutiny about their health.

Big pharma?

Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced a settlement with the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. The company had, among a host of criminal actions, helped publish falsified data in a medical journal, failed to report the dangers of a drug and used “favors” like trips to Jamaica to persuade doctors to use its medications for unapproved — and unproven — purposes on children.

Think it’s only financial business that’s affected?

The head of Germany’s football league has called on Sepp Blatter to resign over the FIFA bribery scandal.  Reinhard Rauball told Germany’s Welt Online that Blatter should step down as soon as possible so that FIFA can make a fresh start.

Maybe I’m just an old hippie from a distant time, but this stuff is just wrong.  Simple, right?  You could explain right and wrong to a child fairly easily.  So why does that go out the window when there’s “business” involved?  What’s really scary to me is that no one has gone to jail for any of this stuff – companies have paid fines but no individual has been held accountable (and we all know it’s not just one person).

I’m willing to bet that no matter on which side of the political spectrum you fall we can agree that stealing, bribery, bid rigging, and selling drugs you know aren’t safe isn’t right.  What we can do about it is to call it what it is – bad, maybe criminal behavior – and not stand for it.  Don’t do business with people who permit individuals to behave this way.  I almost wrote companies” there but corporations are legal entities, not people.  It won’t get better until somebody is held accountable in a very public way and jailed.   We as a society and community of business people must demonstrate that competing hard and winning are OK, but not at any cost.  After all, every sport has a rulebook and certain actions will get you penalized or kicked out of the game.  Why not business?

Are you as frustrated as I am?

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Goal-Line Technology And Your Business

The lords of international soccer recently gave their approval for the use of technology that can tell if a ball crossed the goal-line for a goal.

a soccer goal, shot on the German »Chambers Le...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Revolutionary for soccer but the same technology has been in use for tennis for quite some time. We’ve all seen the cool animations CBS provides during the U.S. Open although frankly I’d rather see another McEnroe tirade than an absolutely correct call.

The use of technology to improve upon the imperfections of human officials is widespread.  The NFL uses TV replay to get things right, as does the NHL and, to a more limited extent baseball.  Be that as it may, there was an interesting quote in the Reuters report on the introduction:

UEFA president Michel Platini is among those who fear that Thursday’s ruling will open the floodgates for other forms of technology to be introduced.  “I am not just wholly against goal-line technology, I am against technology itself because then it is going to invade every area of football,” he warned last week.

Sounds like quite the Luddite, but he’s not alone.  Baseball doesn’t use technology to call balls and strikes although it seems possible.  Other sports don’t employ technology, preferring to let the quirks of human referees remain part of the game.  What does this have to do with your business?

Your business might be in the same boat.  Developing strategies without planning a set of KPI’s to measure progress is the same mentality.  Not having a system in place to capture, analyze, and report on what’s going on the digital world is as well.  You wouldn’t dream of operating a business without some sort of financial reporting yet we often ignore many other pieces of vital information that could help us make the correct calls.

The technology in place won’t end all of the questionable goal calls in soccer.  That’s OK – we’re still talking about some of them (The Hand of God goal) 25 years later.  But if we’re to be talking about our businesses 25 years from now, we’d do well to take advantage of every piece of information we can.

You agree?

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Fair Play

The striker (wearing the red shirt) is past th...

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I usually try and keep the blog light on Fridays but this morning’s topic is on the serious side.  Since next week is Thanksgiving here in the US, we’re going to focus on food and so this might be the last business-related post for a bit. Please keep reading!

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