What's WRONG with Sport
‘Foul Play’ posed a number of questions to Fifa, football’s highest international governing body, about the supposed positive role of the sport in the world. Among the topics raised were football and development, alcohol sponsorship in football, reports of spikes in prostitution at the 2006 Fifa World Cup, and the cost of South Africa of hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
The questions below were put by Joe Humphreys, author of ‘Foul Play’.
The replies were issued by Fifa’s public affairs department in April 2008.
1. Fifa president Joseph S. Blatter is on record saying “football can make this world a better place” (a). But, by the same token surely, football can make this world a worse place. When you look at how the sport has attracted hooliganism and unhealthy nationalist fervor, and how, in education for example, it can undermine academic studies if taken too seriously, you could make a case that football overall does more harm than good. How does Fifa balance the negative consequences of football, as it is practiced today, with the positive ones?
Football does not produce hooliganism, racism, or unhealthy nationalist fervour which are objectionable social phenomena which regrettably often use the popularity of football and other sports as a public platform. FIFA is not a police force and its competences are restricted to the organisation and security inside the stadiums used for its competitions. Areas outside of the stadiums are responsibility of civil authorities and the police. However, FIFA cooperates closely with its national associations and other football bodies to share expertise, knowledge and experience in an effort to keep these social phenomena outside of the stadiums.
In addition, the FIFA President’s programmes for the 2002-2007 and 2008-2011 periods place even more emphasis on contributing to society by promoting the positive values of football. This includes concerted action against discrimination, racism, corruption, illegal betting, doping and hooliganism, and focuses instead on the values of sportsmanship, friendship between cultures and nationals, fair play and solidarity. Furthermore, FIFA’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities have been intensified through the ‘Football for Hope’ movement which focuses on health promotion, peace building, children’s rights and education, anti-discrimination and social integration, and the environment.
Moreover, FIFA also supports and encourages its member associations to support efforts to see that football is included in school curriculums. The FIFA President clearly sees football and its values as part of a school of life.
In conclusion, football definitely has been doing and does more good than harm.
2. Fifa president Joseph S. Blatter is on record saying “I want football to be recognized as a universal treasure that helps to make the world a better place” (b). Should football be treasured more than any other sport, or indeed more than any other recreational activity? Does Fifa believe that football is particularly well-equipped “to make the world a better place”? If so why?
FIFA rates all sports and recreational activities equally. The reason why FIFA promotes football is because it is the world governing body of this particular sport. Please find more information on FIFA’s mission here.
Well over one billion people worldwide are involved in football in one way or another and, as such, it is one of the world’s most popular sports. FIFA sees it as its responsibility to do everything it possibly can to use the power and popularity of the sport to make the world a better place through various CSR programs. Please find more information on FIFA’s CSR activities here.
3. Regarding its “charitable” works, Fifa has published details of various “football for development” projects in which it is involved. How does Fifa respond to the charge that it is engaging in an element of self-interest by concentrating its funding on health and education projects with a footballing dimension?
We have not heard of any such “charges” and kindly request that you send more details about these. However, please note that all of FIFA’s activities have a football approach, and will continue doing so, because FIFA is the world governing body of this particular sport.
4. Does Fifa fund any development projects which are entirely unrelated to either football or the promotion of football?
The development projects funded by FIFA via the ‘Football for Hope’ movement are exclusively projects in the area of social development, for which football serves as an effective tool. Once again, football is at the heart of the various projects because FIFA is the world governing body of football. More detailed information on ‘Football for Hope’ can be found on FIFA’s website.
5. Fifa is strongly opposed to interference by national governments in its affairs. It says football should be separated from politics. But is Fifa not itself a political organization, engaged - for example - in staging international competitions in conjunction with national governments and also in purportedly seeking “to make the world a better place”?
In accordance to our statutes, FIFA is an independent, private sporting organisation and not a political one. FIFA is strongly opposed to political interference in the internal affairs of its national associations, because these are by statutory regulations independent organisations. However, FIFA does work in collaboration with governments on certain issues and never claimed otherwise – e.g. and among others, such cooperation is necessary in order to stage and ensure the organisation of a FIFA World CupTM (e.g. stadiums, transportation security, etc.) Please see the FIFA statutes for more information.
6. Even if it were desirable to separate sport and politics is it possible to do so in practice?
Please see the reply above.
7. South Africa’s local organizing committee for the 2010 Fifa World Cup has revised upwards the estimated cost of staging the event – from US$295 million initially to US$1.59 billion in October 2006. Recent estimates put the final bill at closer to US$3.7 billion. Is there a danger that South Africa will suffer economically from hosting the tournament?
We are not sure where you got these numbers but we assume you are referring to the overall infrastructural investments of the South African government, which would have been invested with or without the 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM. Most of these investments are part of long-term legacy projects necessary to guarantee the economic growth in the country.
Please note that with the exception of infrastructural investments, the staging of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM is privately funded by FIFA and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) via income from its TV and marketing rights. Among others, FIFA and the LOC are renting the stadiums for the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM, and are picking up all costs related to the tournaments (e.g. all costs for the teams, officials, volunteers, as well as prize money etc.).
The 2006 FIFA World Cup GermanyTM produced costs of 1 billion USD which was fully funded by FIFA and the LOC. The staging costs of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM, is estimated at around the same amount. The budget of the LOC has not changed over the past years and remains at 423 million USD.
8. Concerns were raised at the 2006 Fifa World Cup about the illegal trafficking of prostitutes to Germany to cater for an alleged increase in business in the sex trade in the country for the duration of the tournament. What plans has Fifa in place to try to minimize the exploitation of women at the 2010 Fifa World Cup? Has it any view specifically on the suggestion by South African police commissioner Jackie Selebi that prostitution be decriminalized, and restrictions on public alcohol consumption be lifted, for the duration of the tournament?
FIFA strongly condemns any human rights violations, particularly in terms of human trafficking and forced prostitution. Kindly understand that as an international sports federation, FIFA does not have power to intervene legally nor does it fall into its sphere of responsibility. FIFA’s main task is to make sure that its competitions are organised in accordance with the law’s sporting and technical standards and regulations.
With respect to trafficking and forced prostitution in relation with the 2006 FIFA World Cup, we would like to herewith stress that these problems, which were exaggerated out of proportion, failed to materialise. If you look up reports from 2006, respective specialists of police and cities actually noted a downturn of business.
However, FIFA acknowledges the power of football and has therefore traditionally dedicated platforms at its competitions to raise awareness and funds to some of the most pressing social issues. At the same time and in accordance with its statutes, FIFA is politically and denominationally neutral and respects international and national law. FIFA and the Local Organising Committee have taken note of the current discussion in South Africa on temporary legislation for the decriminalization of prostitution and public alcohol consumption.
9. Is Fifa concerned about the close link between football, as a spectator sport, and alcohol consumption?
As in question No. 1, again here we find that football does not generate alcohol consumption. Football, as well as other sports, is unfortunately sometimes used as a public platform for abusive alcohol consumption. FIFA, often in collaboration with its commercial affiliates, engages in activities to promote the importance of sport and a healthy lifestyle through its various development programmes.
10. Should alcohol sponsorship in football be banned? If not why not?
FIFA chooses its commercial affiliates carefully and ensures that their philosophies are in line with the integrity of the sport. As a result FIFA does not accept the sponsorship of hard liquor. FIFA and its various commercial affiliates, including the brewery Anheuser-Busch, a partner since 1994, use the FIFA World CupTM also as a platform to promote the importance of sport and a healthy lifestyle to hundreds of millions of consumers. In fact, most of FIFA’s sponsors support grassroots programmes such as community sport leagues, which among others focus on promoting a healthier lifestyle.
(a) Interview with Fifa President Joseph S. Blatter on his 70th birthday with Andreas Werz and Andreas Herren, www.fifa.com
What's WRONG with Sport
is published by Icon Books, London (April 2008)
Comments can be posted to Joe Humphreys at: email@example.com