Football has been for many years an embedded aspect of British culture. The Premier League is probably one of the most talked about leagues globally and its international player base means that now, more than ever football is a global hot topic. Recently, the focus of the game has changed and there has been increasing media coverage of clubs going into administration along with allegations of bribery and corruption.
Possibly the most infamous story that hit our news screens was that of the allegations of corruption in the run up to the FIFA presidential campaign. Sepp Blatter, the name of the current president of the World Football Governing Body, was one that was repeated on a number of occasions in relation to various, what could be described as scandalous elements of the campaign. One of the candidates, Mohamed Bin Hamman was banned from football for life after being found guilty of attempted bribery. He was the former President of the Asian Football Confederation.
What we witnessed during this time was the bad practice of leaders of global football organisations being exposed and mass corruption and bribery being unearthed. Since then, we continue to see that football is suffering due to a lack of good governance. Insufficient transparency, geographical nepotism and greed are dictating what once was a game about a ball, a field and twenty two players.
In 2011, Chuck Blazer the General Secretary of CONCACAF- the governing organisation for football in North and Central America and the Caribbean was quoted as being the whistle blower in the poor practices and allegations relating to the FIFA Presidential Campaign. He believed that there was no separation between the President Sepp Blatter, the Chairman of the Ethics Committee and the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee who were all Swiss, allowing for domination of the body by Blatter. He also highlighted the under-representation on the board of women and other types of professionals within the field such as clubs, leagues and referees. The report by Lord Davies in relation to the under-representation of women on private sector boards highlighted similar recommendations. Will this force the government to act and legislate to ensure board diversity is representative in all sectors?
Blatter himself, after managing to secure enough votes to remain as President has now expressed his concerns about the management of the preparations for the 2014 World Cup due to take place in Brazil. Arguably, this could be a tactic to distract from the now constant stream of revelations regarding his own practice. However, the Head of Brazils 2014 World Cup organising committee, Ricardo Teixeira last week took a leave of absence ‘for medical reasons’ after increasing pressure for him to resign over corruption allegations. Teixeira has been the President of the Brazilian Football Federation for twenty three years. He has been accused of improper conduct by the English Football Association in relation to improper conduct during bids for the 2018 World Cup and in 2001 he was investigated for crimes including tax evasion and money laundering. On 12th March 2012, he resigned. As governance practitioners reading this article, we can see that there are some clear problems around the issues of leadership, openness, transparency and accountability which are all principles on which good governance is based.
One of the key failures which appears time and time again in football is money, collusion over it and the mismanagement of it. In fact, this is one of the most significant features of poor governance. This is the top of the list in one of the most recent, UK based football failures. Headlines such as ‘Port Vale Unable to Pay Players’ and ‘Port Vale Board Not the Only Ones to Blame’ have haunted the Staffordshire based club. After a £1 million loan taken out ten years ago saw the club rescued from a previous take over, the club have now defaulted on payments leaving players without a salary and the club facing administration. To add to this, the club’s Director Peter Miller resigned from the board leaving them unable to execute their duties in relation to the governance of the club. Shareholders attempted to remove the remaining directors but failed to get the relevant paperwork together on time meaning the directors remain in post.
Highlighting the continuing failure of governance in football demonstrates how important a clear understanding governance remains within all sectors. While to millions the game continues to be about a ball, a field and twenty two players, what these- only some of the stories about failing governance in football reveal is that football is indeed more than just a game!