EUFA is the United Airlines of Sport

April 13, 2017

 

 

This week, United Airlines perpetrated the mother of all PR disasters. Given the opportunity, EUFA managed to equal that crass insensitivity after a terrorist attack before a Champions League match

I have commented in the past, that airline leaders often display depressingly high-visibility egocentric leadership styles. A few retain some public credibility but even those such as Richard Branson attract hostile as well as admiring headlines. More typically, we find boorishness personified in figures such as Ryanair’s Michael O’ Leary, or arrogance elevated to an art form, as illustrated this week by United Airlines’ leader Oscar Munoz. The Fortune publication made a similar point.

LWD subscribers will be aware of the video of the incident, in which a paying passenger was dragged bleeding and screaming from a flight. The incident and initial remarks by Munoz were followed by a billion dollar drop in share value of the company.  Nice one Oscar, who eventually did a Trump-like pivot, declaring such behaviour on the airline will never be repeated.

Meanwhile a terrorist attack in Germany targeted Dortmund’s football team coach which was being driven to a Champions League match against Monaco. Only minor injuries occurred although there could been more serious outcomes. The match was postponed for a day. There was a spontaneous coming together of rival fans against the terrorist actions before and during the match. Dortmund lost narrowly, but the reactions of the fans were widely praised. Later it emerged that the footballing leaders at EUFA had responded with a similar insensitivity to that displayed by United Airlines. A text message to the Dortmund officials made it clear that the only priority was to play the match as quickly as possible.

A few weeks ago, an objection was raised against a potentially dangerous pitch by Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. He claimed the UEFA response was that the match should go ahead, and the players were fully insured.

EUFA is the European arm of FIFA, that exemplar of corruption in the sporting world, competing for the title with the Olympics authorities and their anti-Drug agencies.

I try to find some positive learning messages in LWD posts. Perhaps the reactions of Dortmund and Monaco fans give a glimmer of hope. Maybe Oscar Munez will have an O’Leary Damascene conversion to ethical leadership.   Maybe EUFA will show some recognition that they will have to try harder to escape the legacy left by its association with FIFA’s antics under disgraced leader Sepp Blatter.

Maybe.


The story of FIFA: Update on a permanently failing organization?

April 8, 2016

 survivors

FIFA is where National Ground Hog day meets Inspector Clouseau. The mega leaks from The Panamanian sieve, aka Mossack Fonseka, have already brought about the downfall of Iceland’s President, and considerable embarrassment to numerous other powerful figures. It was more inevitable than surprising that FIFA would have a bit part to play in the drama.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Three Iron Laws of Political Coups: From Ed Miliband to Sepp Blatter and Rupert Murdoch

June 12, 2015

TriangleJournalist Steve Richards examines how political leaders are overthrown. Is he offering suggestions relevant to other kinds of leader such as Sepp Blatter or Rupert Murdoch?

Steve Richards writing in The Independent states that there are ‘iron laws that apply if a party wants to dislodge a leader’. While I would prefer the term working principles, the three ‘laws’ he propounds make a great deal of sense.

He argues that for a successful coup:

 1 There has to be at least one popular alternative candidate

2 the risks are considerably lower than those for retaining the incumbent leader

3 The coup must not generate bloody internal battles.

Read the rest of this entry »


Is Sepp Blatter a Machiavellian Leader?

May 31, 2015

Sepp Blatter’s contoverial re-election as President of FIFA raises the question of his leadership style

One journalist who has followed his career believes so. In a BBC radio broadcast [29th May, 2015] he related an interview he held in which Blatter had pointed to his ‘poisoned box’ , a filing cabinet of information that would protect him from enemies who attempted to dislodge him.

It brought to my mind the strategies of ‘Comrade Card Index’ Stalin, and the monstrous efforts of other dictatorial regimes to collect information as a matter of self-preservation.

The New Machiavelli?

Other commentators  have borrowed the Machiavellian tag in an attempt to understand Blatter’s success in retaining his high office in FIFA for two decades.

This of itself is not evidence that Blatter is the heir to Machiavelli. After all, Machiavelli was adviser to those in power on survival strategies (rather than being himself one of those who had gained power through following his principles).  Also, for his guile Machiavelli did not succeed in retaining his own position, and suffered lengthy periods of imprisonment as a consequence.

The New Machiavelleans

In the UK, the political advisers to Tony Blair’s leadership were unashamed students of Machiavelli, advocating the practice of a modernized Machiavellian approach to politics.

Tyrants of the boardroom

Perhaps a closer analogy is to those ‘tyrants of the boardroom’ described by Jeff Schubert who likened many powerful business leaders to all-powerful dictators such as Stalin, and Gaddafi

COMMENT [BY PAUL HINKS]

LWD commentator Paul Hinks expresses his own views on the re-appointment of Sepp Blatter

FIFA is now fighting corruption allegations associated with ‘irregularities’ in the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

Nine Fifa officials and four executives of sports management companies have been arrested on suspicion of receiving bribes totalling $100m (£65m), according to the US Department of Justice.

The Guardian was among the print media reporting on the incident:

“More than a dozen plain-clothed officers descended on the five-star Baur au Lac hotel on Wednesday [May 28th, 2015], where officials had gathered for Fifa’s annual meeting.

The arrests were made on behalf of US authorities, after an FBI investigation that has been under way for at least three years. The US Department of Justice said authorities had charged 14 officials, nine of whom are current or former Fifa executives. Those arrested in Zurich face extradition to the US.

‘They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest. Instead they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves,” said the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, at a news conference in New York. “They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.’ Events tainted by corruption included the award of the 2010 World Cup to South Africa and the 2011 Fifa presidential election, she said.”

Blatter questioned the timing of the Wednesday’s arrests of current and former FIFA members – suggesting the raids were carried out in order to influence the presidential vote.

Here is a leader struggling for credibility, out of touch with reality and in love with his own image; Narcissism personified.


Is ‘Fifagate’ a re-run of All The President’s Men?

May 27, 2015

The arrest of five Fifa executives in a Swiss luxury hotel has freaky echoes of the Watergate scandal which was to lead to the impeachment of President Nixon

Wednesday 27th of May, 2015:  Breaking news that five Fifa executives had been arrested by Swiss police on charges of corruption and money-laundering over a period of twenty years.

In breaking the news, The New York Times offered the curious headline: FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges; Sepp Blatter Isn’t Among Them

In its first report, still in the early hours in New York, the paper outlined the background to the breaking news:

Swiss authorities conducted an extraordinary early-morning operation here [today] to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges.

As leaders of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel,

The inquiry is also a major threat to Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s longtime president who is generally recognized as the most powerful person in sports, though he was not charged. Blatter has for years acted as a de facto head of state. Politicians, star players, national soccer officials and global corporations that want their brands attached to the sport have long genuflected before him.

An election, seemingly pre-ordained to give Mr. Blatter a fifth term as president, is scheduled for Friday. A FIFA spokesman insisted [at the news conference] that Mr. Blatter was not involved in any alleged wrongdoing and that the election would go ahead as planned.

The Lessons of History

In my mind, the business has remarkable aspects of the Watergate affair which eventually led to the impeachment and disgrace of President Nixon. The plot, if not the details of All The President’s Men, carries a great deal of accurate reporting of the drama.

It is usual to acknowledge the dangers of assuming history repeats itself accurately. It may help suggest ways of interpreting a contemporary story. Or, if we follow the gloss on Hegel made famous by Marx, the events of Watergate occurred as tragedy and may now be re-occurring as farce.

If Fifagate is a farcical rerun of Watergate, don’t expect a sudden resolution. Richard Nixon continued to protest his innocence as the evidence against him mounted. Sepp Blatter, will do likewise, although the suggestion that he was unaware of any corruption going on around him is itself evidence of at least leadership incompetence on a heroic scale.


Tennis bounces into the 21st century. Will Fifa be next?

January 17, 2015

Fast 4 Federer

Tennis has followed cricket by introducing a short format of the game using technology to support it. Football appears to be struggling to do the same

‘It will ruin the game…It will never catch on….’ Listen to the inevitable cries against sporting innovations which have echoed down the ages.

Cricket’s Big Bash

Cricket’s short form is bringing in new audiences to the format of twenty overs per team, with additional rules to permit more control of time, and so better advertising breaks. Technology reduces human errors by umpires. Gambling is promoted as heavily as the cricket. That’s the heady mix given another boost with The Big Bash competition invented in Australia. Brilliant name isn’t it?

Now for tennis, the Fast4 event

Now another Ozzie-inspired sporting innovation in marketing the fast form of tennis. One advertisement for Fast 4 tennis had Federer and Lleyton Hewett bashing tennis balls between to two fast-moving speedboats. Another great marketing image.

Here come the curmudgeons

The innovations bring out the curmudgeonly spirit.

Oliver Brown of The Telegraph was at his most elegant and nostalgic in defense of the slow.

Hitting balls from a speedboat in Sydney Harbour, Federer has been proselytising the message of his friend Lleyton Hewitt’s ‘Fast4’ tennis idea, a format where the first to four wins the set, where deuce games are resolved not by an advantage system but by sudden-death points, and where players are banned from sitting down at a change of ends.

There is much to admire about defenders of tradition. In more optimistic spirit, it might be argued that the new format offer survival chances for cricket which has already moved from timeless test matches to a not very fast five day format. Tennis has abandoned play to a finish five set matches.

Football and Fifa

FIFA is gallantly retaining its traditional administrative format, with Sepp Blatter seeking re-election as President for the fifth time. The forces of modernization are backing young pretenders with creative plans of amber cards and sin bins.

A bookmaker is sponsoring the celebrity footballer David Ginola to stand for election. But will a fighting fund of a few million euros be enough to prevent the long form of the Presidental game being played by the wily Blatter?


Sepp Blatter remains a figure of controversy. What gives him leadership power?

December 23, 2014

Sepp Blatter remains a powerful figure as President of the FIFA organisation, resisting attempts to persuade him to step down after mounting allegations of incompetence or worse

FIFA logo

The most recent controversy [December, 2014] concerns the resignation of Michael Garcia, the author of a report into the selection of the venues for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals which FIFA is procrastinating over publishing.

Allegations of vote rigging and bribing

LWD subscriber Paul Hinks noted earlier

There are accusations that the selection of venue for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals were unfair – allegations of vote rigging and bribing were reported by the BBC in 2010 when Russia was awarded the 2018 finals; Forbes are amongst credible sources echoing similar concerns about the successful Qatar 2018 bid.

The selection of Qatar for the 2018 finals appears even more confusing, given that traditionally the World Cup Finals are held in summer – in Qatar the summer temperatures would expose teams to temperatures of more than 40c – even today’s highly conditioned footballers cannot expect to excel for 90 minutes in that heat.

Then there is the deeper analysis of how FIFA are attempting to correct the situation – prompting closer inspection of Sepp Blatter’s tenure as President of the FIFA organisation.

What gives Blatter his leadership power?

I recently redrafted the chapter on power for the next edition of textbook Dilemmas of Leadership. The subject has been studied particularly as a way of understanding prime examples of apparent all-powerful leaders, including tyrannical CEOs and political dictators. The handbook of power remains Machiavelli’s The Prince with its chilling messages of resisting the overthrow of the powerful by their enemies.

What next for FIFA?

The BBC report cited above suggested that Fifa’s image is truly at an all-time low, and that reform can’t occur until there’s a change of leadership. Mr Blatter remains clear that he intends to stand for election in May [2015], and will seek a fifth term of office, at the age of 78.

LWD will continue to monitor the leadership story by updating this post