1 June 2015

Its all about the money………...

The ongoing saga of FIFA corruption has made me see Sep Blatter's position in rather a different light. FIFA's conduct has been gathering bad reviews for some years, as James Lawton's piece in the Independent from 2011 shows but I am quite sure that, if he's been smart, any investigation of Sepp will come up empty. The reason for that is that Sepp isn't in place in order to line his own pockets but in order to allow others to line theirs.

Have a look at other global sports, like cycling or motor racing or tennis, and you will quickly appreciate that the sport itself is just a front for the extraordinary amounts of money to be made in the background. And, to varying degrees, the people at the top of these sports are in place to make sure that the revenue stream isn't interrupted. That is the real story behind Sepp Blatter. Sepp is there not to put his own snout in the trough but in order that others can do so and the sport itself is just a vehicle to that end.

In motorsport, Bernie Ecclestone (not a man to be tangled with) has positioned himself rather better than Sepp in that Bernie and his close corporate associates are the gatekeepers to that particular global gravy train. They have first dibs on the money and its up to lesser mortals to grab the crumbs that fall from Bernie's table but those crumbs are pretty eye-watering and well worth grabbing. But Bernie isn't free from taint as his political donations and, more recently, trial in Germany showed.

Cycling was much the same before the Lance Armstrong catastrophe and the organising body of cycling was complicit in Armstrong's activities. The International Cycling Union, headed by Armstrong apologist Pat McQuaid, shut down its own investigation into Armstrong's activities. Why? Because no-one wanted to derail the gravy train through bad publicity. Again, its all about the money.

The problem, of course, is that greed and venality are powerful motivators, particularly when morality no longer plays any effective part in restraining the worst traits in human nature. Will Hutton writes about Blatter/FIFA in these terms and underscores the challenge that anyone or any corporation faces when attempting to address the issues.

And, in this discussion, I shouldn't forget our politicians because, the reality is that politics, like sport, is all about the money and, whoever is 'at the top', they are only there to make sure that the gravy train doesn't stop. If anyone in sport suggested de-regulation (i.e. getting rid of the rules) there would be an outcry but in politics, deregulation (as instigated by Thatcher/Regan) has become the dominating mantra. Cameron and Farage parrot this line when they attack Brussels (always under the guise of a perverted nationalistic self-interest). But underlying this is a determination to get rid of as many rules as possible in order that as much money can be made as possible without fear of retribution.

The trick, as with all such similar situations, is too make sure that the greed and venality doesn't become too obvious or too offensive because, as with Lance Armstrong, eventually some people find the courage to stand up and object. It may be that Sepp Blatter forgot to keep a lid on things and he might pay the price but be assured that any disruption in the revenue stream will only be temporary - there's just too much money to be made…………..