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


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.

 FIFA Act One

In the first act of the FIFA drama cum tragedy cum farce, the leaders of the World’s greatest footballing powers were found guilty of numerous illegal activities. Like some sporting Watergate, the conspiracy edged ever closer to its President Sepp Blatter. LWD had its own whistle-blower in Paul Hinks, who drew attention to the emerging problems of FIFA in an earlier post.

The mighty power of the US legal and criminal justice system entered the fray.  Sepp despite his vigorous efforts was relieved of his duties as CEO, as investigations went on. Great steps were taken intended to root out corruption and purify the organization.

The first step to public exposure was a raid by Swiss Police on the FIFA headquarters. Checking my notes, I was surprised that it took place less than a year ago [27 April, 2015]

 A new dawn?

Elections were held, and Gianni Infantino, former general secretary of EUFA appointed as new President. The extreme critics of FIFA were disappointed that a complete reform with an outside candidate as CEO was not initiated.

 Mossack Fonseca

Then the sensational wikileaks this week from Mossack Fonseca. According to the BBC [Summarized]:

A huge leak of documents has lifted the lid on how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth. The files were leaked from one of the world’s most secretive companies, a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca. The files show how Mossack Fonseca clients were able to launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid tax.

It is the biggest leak in history, dwarfing the data released by the Wikileaks organisation in 2010.

There are links to 12 current or former heads of state and government in the data, including dictators accused of looting their own countries. More than 60 relatives and associates of heads of state and other politicians are also implicated.

The documents show that Iceland’s Prime Minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, had an undeclared interest linked to his wife’s wealth. He has now resigned.


Among the stories picked up was one involving the new FIFA President Gianni Infantino, at a time he was director of legal services.  His co-signatories have been indicted in the earlier FBI investigations


National Groundhog Day


The 2015 raid by Swiss Police was on FIFAs headquarters.  This week the target was its European arm, EUFA. The events seemed close enough for me to borrow the metaphor of National Groundhog Day. Again according to the BBC:


The offices of European football’s governing body Uefa have been searched by Swiss police.

They have seized information about a contract disclosed in the Panama Papers that was signed by former Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino, now head of the global football body Fifa.

Infantino has denied wrongdoing, while Uefa says it is helping police.

Meanwhile, a Fifa ethics committee official named in the papers – Juan Pedro Damiani – has resigned. Leaked documents suggest the Uruguayan and his firm provided legal assistance for at least seven offshore companies linked to Eugenio Figueredo.

A former Fifa vice-president, Figueredo was among 14 people arrested in Zurich last May [2015] as part of the US inquiry.

Is FIFA a permanently failing organization?

The FIFA case reminds me of a much cited piece of research into the nature of permanently failing organisations. According to the theory by Meyer  and  Zucker, some organisations survive long after they have outlived their original purpose and values.

It is suggested that such organizations continue through serving the  interests  of people with sufficient power to supplant economic interests or ethical values. Examples are easier to find during periods of organizational decline.

To be continued

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