The current FIFA debacle and the allegations of corruption bring into focus the role sports administrators should play in administering their core activity -sport. This month has seen story after story about those who run the game – those who arrange the tournaments, look after the wellbeing of players and generally administer the game. FIFA has been the global headline and for all the wrong reasons.
During the recent FIFA 2015 Congress held in Zurich I had the honour of representing New Zealand.
The Congress itself took place over one day preceded the day before by an opening ceremony. Both events were big glossy affairs – you wouldn’t have thought that in reality it was the annual meeting of a global sports club. Every agenda item at the Congress itself appeared to be supported by a video played on multiple screens. Each video seeming to express the global success of FIFA. There was also little evidence of debate – impromptu requests to speak were almost non existent. And the presidential election itself involved no debate, just 2 speeches followed by the voting itself.
The day before the congress I has some spare time so I walked to the Kunsthaus Zurich- a wonderful art gallery that has a huge collection of work. I spent a few hours walking around enjoying the works almost overwhelmed by what I was seeing.
As I walked back to my hotel to attend a pre Congress meeting I reflected on what I had seen and what I hadn’t – I realised that I didn’t recall much about the gallery itself – I remembered that it had lots of wall space, that there was a cafe (dominated by a Miro mural covering an entire wall), a shop on the ground floor and that I’d seen a few people selling admission tickets and others keeping an eye on those visiting the gallery. What was in my mind was the art I had seen – Impressionists, post impressionists, dadaists etc. and how much I had enjoyed it.
The Kunsthaus had allowed the artworks to speak for themselves with very little in the way of someone walking in and taking it all in. What the gallery was doing in my mind – was holding its massively significant art collection very lightly – no great fanfare, nothing screaming “look at me” – just a wonderful collection of humanity’s contribution to artistic endeavour – that is – nothing getting in the way of the sheer enjoyment of all.
And that made me think of what was occurring in Zurich at the FIFA Congress – the polar opposite of what I had just experienced. Here I was attending a meeting of “the beautiful game” – a game I love passionately – and all I could see happening were things other than football. The game was being hidden by everything that surrounded it – excess, corruption, and personality – nothing beautiful in sight and much of what I could see and hear – ugly. Football was coming a very bad last. Even the videos viewed at every opportunity during the Congress itself to emphasise yet another FIFA achievement were cheapened by the sheer number and quality of them. I heard myself thinking “I wonder how much they cost to make” rather than “wow”.
But in my Zurich art gallery experience also lies a valuable positive – a design principle for the game of football and its future as the global game. However FIFA re imagines itself – and it will need to do that to survive – let’s make sure that there is football not just at its core but everywhere and very visibly everywhere – lets make sure that football administrators “hold football lightly” so we see the game and not much else. Lets make football shine! I want those who administer football to get out of the way, to disappear. I don’t want to hear stories of about the size of FIFA’s headquarters, of corruption, of Mr Sepp Blatter – in fact why should most of the world know the name of the FIFA president and the composition of FIFA’s executive committee, the size of their meeting rooms etc. etc.? We shouldn’t care. What I want to know is that the the game is administered properly, that tournaments are held in countries that can run them well, that money is spent with due respect to those who contribute it – things that appear not to be the case now.
I haven’t a clue who manages the Kunsthaus and frankly I don’t care – what I do care about is the art I saw in the gallery and the impression it made on me. And I want the same to be my football experience.
I’m glad to be part of a company that understands the part sport plays in strong communities. At Conversant we care about sport and we care about how it is led and administered – we want to see it connected to communities, truly inclusive of all and governed by people committed to the highest ethical standards. Football urgently needs leaders who have those principles at their very core. What the globe is calling for now are leaders who can lead the sport through such a process of change and take the sport and the global community with them.
Lets re-imagine FIFA as a global art gallery and see what it looks like.