The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has been embroiled in a number of high profile accusations of scandal in recent years, centring around various questionable World Cup decisions and suggestions of bribery. The manner in which they have managed media coverage has been poor at best and has caused considerable lasting damage to their reputation.
This has culminated in the body’s own ethics investigator siding with critics and stating the need for FIFA to rectify the current disconnect with the public. So the question is, can PR save football’s governing body?
Substituting silence for transparency
FIFA’s biggest issue at present is the lack of transparency within the organisation. While it rarely responds to negative media coverage in a timely or appropriate manner, the issue is more deeply seated within the organisation from the top down.
In order to address the increasing loss of fair and trust that football clubs, fans and businesses have in FIFA they must adopt a more open stance that encourages questions and answers them in clear, plain and honest language.
Regular announcements on how funds are being spent, what is left in the bank and just who they are making deals with would go some way to rectifying the situation. Naming and shaming those who have been embroiled in allegations (and found guilty) of bribery would also restore some faith, while actively demonstrating that the organisation is a progressive and forward thinking one that rewards fans would also answer critics.
Frankly, the sooner they publicly admit their mistake or dishonesty of the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar the better they will fair in the long-run.
Substituting poor working practices
Transparency is key to good PR and can help businesses to avoid coruscating questions about finances, management and competency – oft levelled at FIFA. Slyvia Schenk of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has stated that there is too much emphasis on punishing individuals than changing the federation’s working culture.
Happy employees who support a common vision will ultimately help any business to achieve its goals. FIFA needs to take a top down approach and use PR to demonstrate that it is taking this challenge seriously. As Albert Einstein stated, repeating an experiment and expecting different results is the definition of madness.
A leader of positive reputation
I’ll be honest here. In order to change its public perception, FIFA need to remove Sepp Blatter as President. This one man alone has done the single most amount of damage to the body and if FIFA were trading on the stock market he would have been stripped of the position long ago. Hell, he even set a maximum length for women’s football shorts – I’m not joking!
Greg Dyke’s appointment as the Chairman of the English Football Association has shown that confidence can be restored quickly and a new vision can replace one that has long been questioned.
A proactive PR campaign around a new leader and how they will right the wrongs of the former governance will do wonders to win football fans back on side. Increased accessibility to the leader through social media sessions, more regular video content (particularly Google hangouts) and more tangible outcomes of FIFA’s activity could all but eradicate the federation’s issues.
FIFA needs to embrace PR and quickly before its too late.