As the days are getting hotter, two big American brands seem more and more keen on doing the right thing. This Sunday the New York Times penned a lengthy piece on Apple’s CEO, his beliefs and how the company is moving into the realm of what’s “just and right”—not solely profitable. Starbucks also announced a program to put their employees through college. It’s nice to hear about brands with some semblance of a heart, soul and conscience.
So do you think FIFA will take a hint?
With the World Cup having kicked off this week in Brazil, we are once again reminded of the unethical practices of the organization (and the governments that support the games). FIFA has been accused of a plethora of misdeeds from bribery to plain, unabashed corporate greed. (For an overview of the “comically grotesque organization” check out John Oliver’s, aka the British Colbert, 13-minute condemnation of FIFA.)
Apparently corruption doesn’t come cheap. The overall price tag of this year’s World Cup is $11 billion with $3.6 billion of Brazilian taxpayer money going to the construction of stadiums and security. While one would hope the revenue generated from the tournament would go back into the pockets of the population at large, FIFA ends up taking most of the revenue from the World Cup with them. Worse, the organization is exempt from taxes (projected to total more than $250 million). As a non-negotiable with host countries, FIFA is free from “corporate tax, income tax, VAT, excise duties, local tax, and any other taxes, no matter what other tax laws might require.” FIFA has also pressured the Brazilian government to temporarily overlook its laws prohibiting alcohol consumption in its stadiums, as Budweiser is a big sponsor of the event. And more importantly, in Qatar they are dying like flies. Seems the government has either got a bully on its hands or a willing co-conspirator.
Maybe some of these practices could be overlooked in a prosperous, egalitarian nation, like say Switzerland, but in a country as lopsided as Brazil (and South Africa), it definitely leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth, to say the least. In Brazil, 13 million are left underfed daily, illiteracy can reach 21% in some regions and it ranks 85 on the list of developing nations. But interestingly enough, FIFA seems blithely unapologetic about its role there. No initiatives, no giving back, simply no backsies. We also can’t forget about the blind support of the 3.2 billion, about 46% of the population, that tune in to watch the month-long tournament. It seems the world really does love soccer (i.e. football).
FIFA’s World Cup is one of the most powerful brands in the world. Will it ever be compelled to engage in this thing called corporate social responsibility? Or is this religion** called soccer (i.e. football) above the rules and principles governing capitalist organizations?
* Fédération Internationale de Football Association Don’t Give a F*ck
**Yes, I’ll be watching.