“FIFA does not deserve the opportunity to get it right. It has shown zero desire to genuinely change,” asserts Jaimie Fuller, co-founder of the #NewFIFANow advocacy group. As Chairman of high performance sportswear firm SKINS, Fuller has had a good overview of the sports community and could foresee that growing objections to FIFA were serious enough to launch open opposition to FIFA’s leadership in January 2015. That was four months before law enforcement began major steps to curb serious charges of bribery and financial mismanagement at FIFA, followed by high profile arrests and guilty pleas.
Fuller’s talking points for big changes sound a lot like tough love, or just plain tough: “The FIFA issues went on at least fifteen years. It took the (U.S.) Department of Justice and FBI to do something about it. That is unforgivable. There are clowns running the sports organizations.” He rails against “profligate spending” epitomized by costly private jets. Echoing recent advice by WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell that cosmetic change is not enough, Fuller and his fellow reform advocates criticize FIFA’s “culture of denial.”
“In business you are accountable to shareholders,” notes Fuller. “But in sports the claim has been ‘because we’re autonomous we don’t have to be accountable’.”
NewFIFANow is putting the FIFA slogan “Live Your Goals” into action. The key goal of this grass roots movement is independent and external control of FIFA. Fuller is optimistic that this approach will prove effective. “We are seeing massive changes through social media.” He cited the viral forwarding of reports about badly underpaid Asian laborers being exploited to construct 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup infrastructure in Qatar.
Fuller and NewFIFANow have taken their campaign for reform to sports sponsors and are getting results. He contacted Coca-Cola’s external affairs staff and began a dialogue that has progressively expanded to engage other sponsors and become a constructive forum for initiating the changes that will be essential for FIFA’s future.
Fuller is also appealing to FIFA fans and the very important constituency of parents of young athletes by highlighting how expensive it is now to give young athletes good training. That burden reflects a cost of corruption that is much too high and depleting funding needed for youth sports programs. He sees athletes themselves as the other major stakeholder group whose support is needed and is optimistic that athletic self-discipline will make this a reality.
There is much more to be done, reports Fuller. He discusses the tens of millions of dollars in bonuses and commissions paid to leaders of the International Volleyball Federation out of the proceeds of corporate sponsorship deals to illustrate this point. While industry insiders are generally aware that private marketing companies often charge double digit commissions for bringing in new sponsorship revenues, these private companies do not have their overhead and staff expenses paid for by a non-profit foundation.
Fuller shared his experience and perspectives in panel discussions and press talks at the annual SportAccord Convention in Lausanne, Switzerland last week. Constructive solutions to move beyond the financial and doping scandals that have dominated the sports pages for the past year were a recurring topic at the event. Thierry Borra, Global Director of Olympic Games Management at Coca-Cola, David Haggerty, President of the International Tennis Federation, and other sports leaders joined Fuller in a panel called “We’re all in it together,” which was a call to action for a team effort to restore public confidence in sports.