The great Lord Coe mystery: how institutions finger the fall guys

As the credibility of FIFA, EUFA, and IAAF deteriorates under the weight of leadership scandals and incompetence, Lord Coe, newly appointed head of IAAF, remains untouched by the crises. For the moment.

Large institutions have a characteristic of parcelling out blame. As a damaging story emerges, claims of institutionalized corruption or incompetence result in individuals being identified as culprits and punished, leaving others blameless.

Fingering the Fall Guy

In movie jargon this is known as fingering the Fall Guy. The idea is that someone takes the blame so that some else, usually more powerful remains above suspicion.

In the move and TV series, The Fall Guy had another built-in joke. He was a stunt artist who a stand-in as the character of the hero. I was thinking more about the more general term for a scapegoat protecting a more powerful individual or organization. The petty criminal who takes the fall.

‘No whitewash at The White House’

One of the most spectacular of all Fall Guy stories was to lead eventuality to the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. A series of minor miscreants was paraded before the courts of justice, as Nixon hung on to his promise that there would be ‘no whitewash in the White House‘.
There was a cover-up, and as happens time and again, one fall-guy is not enough to save the big guy. Like a vertical version of the domino theory of collapse, the fall-guys fall and the moment of truth gets closer and closer to the big cheese.

Last year there were a few notable examples of instructions playing out the fall guy strategies. The most spectacular was that of FIFA. As police and inland revenue investigations began, FIFA ‘reluctantly’ gave up its fall guys. It even resurrected its own disciplinary investigation committee to root out the bad guys, and permit the great leader Sepp Blatter to remain in charge of the newly cleansed organization.
As with Richard Nixon, the fall guy strategy did not work. Mr Blatter is now facing various accusations and fighting a lengthy suspension imposed by the committee he charged with rooting out the guilty members of the organization.
And now for WADA

I step cautiously in examining the troubles currently besetting the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA.
Let’s remind ourselves of the fall-guy principles found in the Nixon and Blatter cases.
In the early stages we have denial of wrongdoing
This is followed by the search for a culprit
An official enquiry is sanctioned
A relatively low-ranking culprit is found
The controversy is not contained, and other higher-ranked fall guys are identified
The big cheese continues to pledge his innocence

In the Nixon and Blatter cases, the big cheese eventually is implicated. The removal of the big cheese purifies the organization which gets on with what it was designed to do.

The WADA case is focused on the IAAF, the International Association of Athletics Federations. The WADA investigation is the official enquiry led by someone of unimpeachable credentials, a Canadian lawyer Dick Pound who was co-founder of WADA.
The first stage of its report last November included evidence that serious doping transgressions occurred in recent Olympics, including the London Games. Several fall-guys were identified, including IAAF’s previous President Lamine Diack, who is already disgraced. See the LWD post on the first stage of the report.

The report recommended that Russia was banned from participation in the next Olympics. The familiar process of institutions seeking fall guys began, in Russia and elsewhere.
The second part of the report is released this week [January 14 2016]. It provides further likely fall guys. It is critical of IAAF being ‘in denial’ about the scale of the problem.

‘Coe is the right man for the job’

Diack’s successor and his former deputy at IAAF is Lord Coe. He receives support from the leader of the WADA investigation. Dick Pound publicly repeats his belief that Coe is the right man to rescue IAAF from its self-made crisis.

Lord Cue is inevitably the focus of press criticism. He finds himself defending his integrity and competence. Some accusations are of his closeness to organisations such as Nike, and his tardiness in giving up lucractive financial arrangements on his appointment as head of the IAAF. He is learning  quickly the importance of a little humility.

To be continued

4 Responses to The great Lord Coe mystery: how institutions finger the fall guys

  1. Harry Gray says:

    I find my comments are not accepted Isthsi because my former email.address was Harry

    > On 19 January 2016 at 15:15 Leaders We Deserve > wrote: > > Tudor Rickards posted: “As the credibility of FIFA, EUFA, and IAAF > deteriorates under the weight of leadership scandals and incompetence, Lord > Coe, newly appointed head of IAAF remains untouched by the crises. For the > moment. Large institutions have a characteristic of parcelli” >

  2. Susan Moger says:

    Dear Tudor,

    Thank you of a thought provoking post. Interesting, Michael Johnson, the great athlete, indicated on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’ that whilst he acknowledges all the contextual difficulties, he is still hopeful that Sebastian Coe can lead a ‘recovery’ of his sport .

    Susan Moger

    Sent from my iPad

  3. Thank you Susan and Harry.
    The positive perspective is that SC will bring about much needed change. Once Dick Pound endorsed him as untainted, he had little choice to say Seb is ‘the right man for the job’.
    I am not sure of the criteria Mr Pound is using.

    Harry: I’ll try to see if there is a problem with your email. Please send me any comments directly and I will include them.

  4. Paul Hinks says:

    Bigger challenges lie ahead for the IAAF:

    “Adidas, the IAAF’s biggest sponsor, has told athletics’ world governing body it is to terminate their sponsorship deal four years early, the BBC has learned.”

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