When the storm breaks

June 4, 2015

The storm around FIFA reaches a new intensity as President Sepp Batter prepares to step down, and revelations of corruption by Supergrass Chuck Blazer are made public IMG_1409

3rd June 2015

Three days after his defiant acceptance of reappointment as President, Sepp Blatter stands down ‘in the interests of the organization’. What might have changed?

The news came in a rapidly-convened and unexpected press conference. Blatter The President suggested that his change of mind was a result of realizing his appointment was unacceptable to players, fans and to others in the great game of football.

He also indicated he would drive through the radical changes needed. This is if anything is as implausible now than when he made similar claims on his reappointment. His statement has presented a dilemma to an incoming leader and others in and outside FIFA. How will a new leader have freedom to introduce independent change if the outgoing leader is intent on initiating the process?
This suggests that Mr Blatter will not be able to cling to this proposed interim position.

The Tipping Point?

Consensus among commentators is that a critical incident has occurred maybe in the last few hours prior to the press conference. The emerging criminal investigations, particularly from the United States, are producing the butterfly wing flap that triggered the storm.

Another possible explanation is favored in an article in the Independent. This involved a bribery claim before the vote which appointed South Africa to hold the 2010 World Cup.

The Guardian suggested that Blatter had been urged by close aides to change his decision. A possible trigger point came from reports from America that Blatter was among those to be investigated for money laundering and tax evasion.

June 4th 2015

The storm breaks

LWD correspondent Paul Hinks noted:

As we keep saying, there will be more to come from this story. Suspect we’ll hear more from the accused, Blatter himself maybe dragged into the corruption allegations and questioned.

I keep thinking about President Bush’s reference to ‘Axis of evil’ … perhaps Blatter had an ‘Axis of evil’ or and ‘Axis of corruption’ that underpinned his power play.

I heard on Radio 4’s news this morning that Greg Dyke has suggested that FIFA bring in forensic accountants to go through FIFA’s books and trace the ‘lost’ funds? Good idea; FIFA desperately need to rebuild and regain trust; not easily achieved.

There’s also a nagging part of me that wants to recognise the good in Blatter’s (/FIFA’s) vision to encourage football development in countries like Africa … it’s just Blatter failed the ethics test in attempting to realise his goal.

Now [June 4th 2015] there’s the breaking news that Chuck Blazer [FIFA exec and US Supergrass] knew about the bribes: Fifa crisis: Ex-official Chuck Blazer details bribe-taking

June 8th 2015

FIFA official says that evidence of corrupt practices in the bidding process may be result in new votes for 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

June 11th 2015

Unconfirmed reports that Sepp Blatter is reconsidering stepping down.

European Parliament to intervene in FIFA constitutional crisis, and asks Mr Blatter to step down.

July 16th 2015

Various stories have developed in the last month concerning FIFA officials facing charges over financial dealings and corrupt practices. FIFA returns for first meeting since May to consider radical reforms.

July 20th 2015

BBC story that Michel Platini has been asked to stand as next president of FIFA, with adequate support from all FIFA regions.

To be continued


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


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.

Counting words at the World Cup. A nice idea worth further testing

July 13, 2014

Team 1 determined pride together
Team 2 confident flair unconvincing
Team 3 positive effort spirited
Team 4 flair talent dark horse
Team 5 injustice defensive forceful
Team 6 powerful focused committed

[Source: BBC and Cambridge University Press ]

A computer data base has been used to produce the three words most commonly used in the media to describe each of the teams that played in the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil. The result makes an interesting point for discussion. Howeever, there is a fundamental difficulty in interpreting the data. As I found to my cost some years ago, word counts can be deceptive signals in interpreting or representing a concept.

This latest study attempted to measure the confidence in the England team and produced a Confidence Index. That particular piece of research came to an abrupt end with England’s departure from the tournament. A subsequent more ambitious study was then reported, perhaps to rescue the project until the World Cup ended.

My own work taught me how words require context for their interpretation. Some years ago, I applied a similar approach to that reported here in studying innovative companies. In my pilot study, one company stood out as receiving the highest number of mentions of the key word innovation. However, In checking for context, I noted that the company was often being criticized for its lack of innovation. I later discovered that linguistic scholars are familiar with the principle. Wittgenstein in his unique way warns us against misunderstanding the nature of ‘word games’. In short, words are dangerously misleading if they are divorced from context.

Lists of adjectives in the World Cup study need context for them to be tested. This turns out to present difficulties both practically and for various theoretical reasons to do with multiple contextual meanings of words.

If you are of such a mind, you might consider an empirical trial of the data. Take another look at the descriptions above. Two of the six teams are the two finalists in the Competition. Can you (or your football following friends) identify the adjectives associated with Argentina and Germany? You will find the ‘correct’ answers in the BBC and Cambridge University Press article

The exercise may help you decide what sort of ‘truth claims’ you are prepared to accept concerning the the research.

Does this matter?

It mattered to me because many popular articles present interesting ideas backed up by claims of the authority of the researchers. I encourage my students to be vigilant and consider how the research might be tested easily. Too many of my students take for granted the reliability of claims made of findings that are ‘scientifically established’. Even without the prior work in a similar area, I would have looked for ways of testing the claims. The testing method I suggest can be made more rigorous, but serves to illustrate my point.

Research note:

In my research, word counts were used to assess innovation performance of businesses. The results were published in 1998 in The International Journal of Innovation Research ‘Benchmarking the creative organisation: Preliminary results from a database investigation’ I counted entries referring to innovation in the index pages of leading textbooks to obtain my word counts. The method and results were elaborated in an article published in The Encyclopedia of Creativity.

Germany v Brazil. A Hegelian nightmare of momentum and demoralization at the Football World Cup

July 9, 2014

Last night, a shocked global audience watched Germany defeat and humiliate host nation Brazil in The 2014 World Cup. Can the German philosopher Hegel offer insights to the astonishing happenings?

Searching for sense after the game [July 8th, 2014] I remembered the ideas of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The philosopher remains influential for his system of thought which considers the nature of contradictions and how they become integrated.

Triumph and its contradiction

So Germany whacking in seven goals suggests the presence of triumph and its contradiction, disaster.

Or maybe it was through the energized performance of the German team and the defeated efforts of the Brazilians which produced the 7-1 scoreline. Some would describe what happened in terms of momentum and demoralization.
Any which way, Hegel invites us to seek a synthesis emerging from the thesis and its antithesis in seeking understanding.

Demythologizing the game

Without synthesis the story has no satisfactory closure. A focus on a crushing victory and defeat risks the stabilizing of beliefs of superiority and inferiority in cultural terms. It may be better to recognize the events are in a limited time and space. We should beware of y wider stereotypes, of German efficiency and Brazilian creativity crippled or destroyed by the loss of key players.

At a stretch, I can just about reach a Hegelian synthesis in which the story of the specific and spectacular game tonight is demythologized. It is important to appreciate the power of myths and myth making.


It is not destiny that will permit Germany to win the 2014 World Cup, it will be the interactions between two teams which have each earned their places in the final.

Note for fellow pedants
See this beginner’s guide to Hegel for an introduction to his logic. Note also that the three step process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis is widely used, but was never specifically characterized in these terms by Hegel.

What happened next …

Holland beat Brazil in the decider for third place no-one wants to play.

Germany and Argentina play a close final, and a brilliant goal by Gotze wins the World Cup for Germany and illuminates a drab game.

Scolari and his coaching team resign before they receive any more public humiliation.

Germany, spiritual home of Hegelian philosophy, welcomes its heroes with promises of redoubled efforts to retain world supremacy in Football.

Triumphalism, Humiliation, Rebirth. The cycle of thesis, antithesis and synthesis continues for Brazilian German football.

Hawkeye wins goal-line battle in England

April 12, 2013

Goal Control technologyThe Hawkeye subsidiary of Sony wins the battle for supplying goal line technology in England, after losing out to Goal Control for the World Cup

You heard it here first. LWD has been monitoring the entrepreneurial leadership at Hawkeye, long before it was taken over by Sony. Our students have predicted its diversification into football monitoring technology since the takeover.

A surprise defeat

Last week, we reported a surprise defeat [April 3rd 2012] in its efforts to provide its well-established system for the forthcoming Football World Cup in Brazil. The victor was an even younger and less well-known German organization known as Goal Control.

After a defeat, victory

Yesterday, [April 11th 2012] The Premier League clubs announced that they would be using the Hawkeye system next season to prevent goal-line errors. The Lampard ‘goal that wasn’t’ [England versus Germany, World Cup 2012] has been mentioned as a contributing factor in the decision to accept the new technology. I assume it was a rational decision to chose the UK [Japanese] system over the German one…

On slips cups and lips

If I may be permitted another editorial cliché, there may be many a slip between the [World] cup and lip. Or at least between winning the first battles and winning the war for competitive leadership in football. Goal Line technology is seen as no more than a first-stage in the process of change in football.


This is an updatable blog. Fresh information will be supplied as it emerges.

What to do when your TV breaks down during the World Cup

June 26, 2010

When your TV breaks down during the World Cup you lose all sense of economic caution

Or maybe you are different, and carry out a risk analysis. You figure out it doesn’t matter. You will be able to watch the matches with a room-full of fans at a nearby pub. Or, you select the most accommodative relative or neighbour or friend or any combination of the three you can think of, and start checking dates. Or, you do what I did.

You switch the set off and take the plug out of the wall and put it back again and switch on. The screen remains blank.

It was all right last night

Who turned it off last night? Whoever. It was all right last night. Now it’s an ex-Tele, dead, departed, not even a flicker of red from the standby light. You start a list of friends who ‘know about fixing the Tele’.

It is Friday lunchtime. England has limped (almost metaphorically) through the qualifying stages of the World Cup. For that other breed of masochist, followers of British tennis, Murray is doing a similar last-hope-for-the-country thing at Wimbledon. They even brought the Queen in after thirty years absence from the Royal Box to make sure Murray won through the second round. There aren’t going to be pubs showing all the Wimbledon matches. So it’s a double whammy.

What to do?

Of course. Call Susan. Did you turn the television off last night? It’s not working. Go down the village, Susan says. Now. There’s a TV place. Yes. That’s it. I go in some haste to the village. There is a line of anxious-looking customers outside the shop, and a cortege of illegally parked cars with red and white flags on. [No, that was just me fantasizing]. As I feared, all TV repair engineers were out fixing broken-down TVs. Booked out until the day of the final.

Buy another one

Have to buy another one. But can someone come immediately? No. By Monday? Well, maybe. If I buy one now, can you guarantee to get in down the road today. No.

Some more discrete haggling, me assuming that the engineers will become available if the price is right. Maybe today, but the boss himself will do me a favour (that’s what it’s called) and install a new set over the weekend.

But we are playing Germany on Sunday I say calmly. [ OK, not calmly. I shout wildly: BUT WE ARE PLAYING GERMANY ON SUNDAY!! ‘We have the match of the tournament on Sunday and you are going to get a bloody good price for a fancy set because you won’t have cheap sets in store will you?’ my defeated body language whispered.]

This is no joke

This is not an invented story. What will be, will be… [To be continued].

World Cup Flag Leadership and Social Networking

June 13, 2010

Tracking data from the World Cup offers a great chance for Social Networking. One interesting possibility is collecting data of ‘flags on cars’. Maybe teams of families could be mobilized, counting and tweeting when travelling in different parts of the country

During the European Nations competition in 2008, I wondered what proportion of cars in England were driving around displaying the England flag. So I started started counting cars with flags. I now see how the rise of Social Networking sites suggests a way of taking part in an interesting little project.

Why stop at England?

In somewhat parochial fashion, I was only thinking of England at first. But what about all the other countries competing in the World Cup? Do they have similar proportions of flags on their cars, or are there great cultural variations?

Counting flags?

Maybe I have hit on a new game to occupy young family members on a car journey. That’s fine. However, if you want to play the statistics game, there are quite a few pitfalls for the first-time flag-counter. Many of these are to anticipate statistical variations and bias. For example, the timing of counting is important worth noting. Are there fewer cars with flags when the home country is playing? Is there a variation as fans drive to watch the match (pubs and public areas would be expected to be heavily loaded. My passenger seemed a bit over-eager to ‘beat the record’ so getting a promise to (try to) be honest is a good idea.

If you start the counting when you see a beflagged car, you introduce a bias. Set a start point (‘at the next road junction’) and stick to the same pattern. I have settled for cars that pass in the opposite direction, and ignore parked cars. Decide if you want to include larger vehicles (I included vans, but have ignored busses).

Use a passenger

Use a passenger with a notebook to record the when and where. It’s safer and probably more reliable. (Two passeners are even better, one counting cars the other counting flags). I now ask for a count of 100 cars as a sample. Stop between samples to avoid count fatigue, and spread out the results over the journey. You may be surprised at the percentages you record, so carry out several trials to see what results you get.

Log the data

Confession. I logged data last time, and will probable do so again, now that I have thought of the possibility of recruiting others, maybe through Twitter. Comments to this post also welcomed, and I’ll do some stats on them.

Enjoy the Football

Oh, yes and enjoy the football. And if (and when) your team gets knocked out, you can always keep further records to follow track how quickly the flags are taken off the cars afterwards.

Image Image from Usborne Books at Home ’50 things to do on a car journey’.

Fijian joy and Welsh fury at Rugby performances

October 1, 2007


Just another rugby game. But when Fiji beat Wales in the 2007 rugby world cup, the nation erupted into joyful celebrations. The losers braced themselves for national fury

It was a week in which bloody events in Burma overshadowed sporting contests. The customary sporting rhetoric of disaster and retributive justice meted out to the losers of a rugby game seemed inappropiate.

As for the rugby, the mighty celebrations in Fiji, we learned, were perhaps partly too be curtailed until after the Sabbath. Fijians, like the Welsh are a religious nation.

My jotted notes after the Fiji game

This is a bad week to fall back on the customary sporting rhetoric, and a vocabulary of natonal humiliation, shame, and atonement, with calls for ritualistic sacrifice of the coach (Gareth Jenkins), the Welsh Rugby Union officials, the captain, (‘Alfie’ Thomas) team members, training squad.

Within a few hours the observations turned out to be less rhetorical than I had intended them to be. The BBC reported the news.

Gareth Jenkins has been sacked as Wales head coach after his side crashed out of the World Cup. Jenkins was told of the Welsh Rugby Union’s decision by chief executive Roger Lewis and chairman David Pickering at the team hotel on Sunday. Lewis said: “No-one would deny the total commitment and passion that Gareth Jenkins has given to the cause. “His desire for success has been tangible – you can taste it, you can smell it – but it was not to be.”

The sacrifices had begun

[Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears….].

Roger Lewis came to praise Jenkins having carried out the necessary act of sacred execution on behalf of a betrayed nation.

‘This decisive decision was made on behalf of Welsh rugby, but also on behalf of Gareth Jenkins’.

Sorry. Didn’t quite get that. The bit about doing it for Gareth who had indicated he wanted to carry on in his job, so that he could learn from the World Cup experience, and rebuild shattered morale. The ‘ decisive decision’ might have been what was best for Gareth, but he hadn’t quite reacted as decisively as the WRU officials. Maybe that’s it.

The official action is not without some justification. The team did not seem particularly well prepared for the violence and commitment of the Fijians. Jenkins had earned himself some wriggle-room after a poor set of performances of the team on his watch, and had asked to be judged on the team’s performance at the World Cup. Other voices were already calling for his resignation.

But maybe there’s something else. It was the manner of the statement. If this was the annoucement of a religious-type act of atonement, a sacred execution, it would have been better carried out by high priests, themselves of stainless reputation. (Yes, the ‘football as religion’ idea has more than surface credibility).


Cultural theorists and psychologists talk about the nature of scapegoating. How under times of fear and uncertainty, the veneer of rationality disappears. Problem-solving becomes a matter of denial. One indicator is a tendency to avoid close examination of one’s own responsibility for the emerging situation.

The once-popular transactional analysis captured it as Games People Play

Among the mind games I was taught to recognize included NLWYMMD and NIGYSOB. ‘Now look what you’ve made me do’, and ‘Now I’ve got you, you son of a bitch’.

Sorry Gareth, but you did force us to do this, with your pledge to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup. The statements on behalf of the WRU just reminded me to much of those old catch-phrases. If events continue to threaten the competence of the WRU leaders, there may well’ have to be some more sacrifices ‘for the good of those led away’

The urge to be seen to act decisively seems to be found as much in those who panic, as among those rare leaders who see they have reached a time when decisive action is needed.

Strange how I can’t get those other events in Burma completely out of my mind. The Generals and their ‘explanations’ of the steps needed to protect the people from dissidents and false leaders. Situations when the sacrifices have been literal not metaphoric in nature.