Coca-Cola, Adidas and Visa: The Dance of the Hypocrites

Oh, how beautiful the sponsors of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association are, these paragons of virtue! They all, or almost all, welcomed Joseph Blatter’s resignation as president of the global football body on Tuesday, June 2, viewing it as a huge step toward transparency and the eradication of corruption.

The smell of scandal and the fear of the outcome of a U.S. judicial inquiry into corruption, which is still in its early stages, were enough to tarnish the image of FIFA’s main sponsors. There are five of them: the American groups Coca-Cola and Visa, the German company Adidas, the Korean motor company Hyundai and the Russian energy company, Gazprom. This last sponsor is the only one that was not openly happy about Blatter’s removal, a man who seemed impossible to budge. Are we to conclude that biting the hand that feeds would be inappropriate, given that the alleged acts of corruption particularly concern Russia being chosen for the 2018 World Cup? The others, however, warranted a little soul-searching before donning themselves with white cloaks like the righters of wrongs.

We recognize that these generous sponsors did not wait until June 2 to demand transparency, ethics and governance reform within the football multinational. Their financial power, no doubt, influenced Blatter’s departure from the playing field much more than the “democratic” vote by in-house authorities did. The sponsors contribute $350 million to the Zurich-based institution’s funds every year. That’s something worth listening to.

The Same Bit as 2011

It’s funny to go back four years in time, when the same bit played out before our eyes. Blatter ran for a fourth term as the president of FIFA in June 2011 against the backdrop of a corruption scandal. Sponsors banged their fists on the table, alerted the press and demanded changes. Blatter was re-elected … and they renewed their contracts.

Just a year ago, the concerned sponsors called for an impartial inquiry into assigning the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The inquiry took place and its conclusions were censured, and in November 2014, Adidas renewed its official partnership up to 2030. Coca-Cola has constantly renewed its own partnership since 1976. It seems that the planet’s most watched tournament offers an unrivaled advertising space for these brands.

Will sponsors’ “clean” money drive out corruption’s “dirty” money? Let us remain cautious.

“Cover up that corruption, which I can’t endure to look on,” is what the French playwright, Molière, would have been able to write today if he entered a football stadium. In this dance of hypocrites, corruption only seems to be a bother when it becomes too visible. But shh! Since Blatter is leaving, everything is already getting better.

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