I hate that I am becoming the new “Takedown-meister” here on BS, but this comment on Ed’s US-Mexico recap has set me off.
Ha! In terms of FIFA, the United States is not a change agent whatsoever, and for very good reasons, we can’t even if we wanted to, and that we probably don’t want to, in the first place.
First of all, I love the very American inability to deal with injustice. “We need to do something. Something must change,” we yell.
Guess what – yelling won’t help.
The USA has almost zero leverage to act as a change agent on FIFA, or CONCACAF or whatever. Here’s why,
1) Blatter and Warner have created an extremely comprehensive and effective network of patronage relationships that ensure small, easily manipulated countries, form up the base of their political support within CONCACAF and FIFA. Blatter learned from the master, Joao Havelange, and has created a nearly iron-clad alliance of third-world votes with Gulf oil money within FIFA. Even big, bad UEFA has very little to use to push FIFA towards policies it likes. They’re stuck too, to a large extent, just like us.
2) I am sure people look at some of the American-instituted improvements in Olympic governance and process and say, “Why can’t we do that in FIFA. Here’s why. Not even Coca Cola and Visa’s considerable support of FIFA comes close to the creating the kind of influence that the USA has over IOC through the enormous rights fees that NBC-Universal pays (and arguably overpays) for the media rights. That gives NBC, and the US sponsors who back up NBC, far more sway over the IOC than US Soccer has with FIFA where its two rights-holders (ABC/ESPN and Univision) only paid $425 million for all FIFA tournaments from 2007 to 2014. Additionally, the American FIFA partners, Coca Cola and Visa paid $500M and $200M respectively for their deals. That adds up to about $1.12B worth of American support to FIFA.
Compare that to NBC paying $1.18 billion for the 2012 London games alone on top of another $820M for the Vancouver games and another $160-200M for parent company GE to become an IOC partner.
Quick point to think about – in the eyes of American TV companies, one Winter Olympics (in a US-friendly time-zone, making it more valuable) is worth twice as much as the both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and all the other FIFA tournaments.
You want to be a change agent? You’re looking at a minimum of $2.16 billion worth of leverage in the IOC right there. Not to pile on, but in order to get a fair comparison, I should’ve also included the investments by American IOC partners Visa, McDonalds and Coca Cola but I couldn’t find good figures for them.
Until we see that kind of investment in soccer from US firms and media backers, we won’t have that much influence within FIFA directly. That is probably the only way Americans could really attract FIFA’s attention to anything. The reality is that they don’t need us nearly as much we need them.
Now that I’ve shown how little influence the US has within FIFA, let me explain far more quickly why it is not in the United States’ best interest to “rock the boat” against CONCACAF and FIFA.
We’re trying to bid to host the World Cup.
That’s why. This is fairly binary here. If we were to get too bitchy about officiating, corruption or whatever with CONCACAF and FIFA, we’d be shooting our World Cup bid in the foot with a very high-powered rifle.
Do I like that Sunil Gulati plays buddy-buddy with kleptocrats like Warner and Blatter and takes part in utterly disgusting acts of slavish devotion like this one?
[ame=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeEPK_lVank”%5DThis will not make you feel proud of US Soccer.[/ame]
Of course not. But that’s how the game is played with FIFA, folks. If you want a World Cup, that’s what it’s going to take. If missing out on another chance to host a World Cup in our life time (and get the knock-on effects on the sport’s popularity here) is worth the warm-fuzzy feeling that being on the side of good sports governance gives you – fine, you’re either childishly naive or an idiot and, either way, you should leave the discussion of the influence and politics of international sport to the big boys. Warm and fuzzy doesn’t work for me and it definitely doesn’t work with FIFA. I want the World Cup here and I understand what it requires to get it.