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Skins | FIFA | Official Non-Sponsorship campaignSkins’ Jamie Fuller at the I Play Fair Sports Law Conference held in Cape Town last year.
March 2015

Can Skins help change FIFA?

FIFA has become a laughing stock, says the British MP behind a campaign for change in the world’s soccer governing body. Skins chairman Jaimie Fuller has taken this a step further with a satirical Official Non-Sponsorship campaign to draw attention to the influence of sponsors on the behaviour of sporting bodies. YAMKELA MKEBE reports

Skins chairman Jamie Fuller has launched a satirical Official Non-Sponsorship (ONS) campaign, making fun of the overly commercialised FIFA business model. This is a tongue-in-cheek show of support for the #NewFIFANow campaign and an invitation to join the debate around the growing call for serious, long-term reform of the way FIFA governs football.

The ONS campaign follows the recent Brussels summit, organised by UK and European parliamentarians and attended by high-profile football administrators and politicians who support the #NewFIFANow campaign aimed at bringing about a change in the way world football is being run by Sepp Blatter and Co.

Fuller believes that FIFA is a discredited organisation and says that many people outside FIFA and few inside FIFA are gunning for change.

The Skins campaign pokes fun at the way in which FIFA has commercialised football and the allegations of corruption that surrounds the organisation. There are, for example, brand guidelines for the use of the non-FIFA logo, an Ebay auction to buy FIFA silence, and a non-existent range of transparent Skins branded merchandise proclaiming non-support for FIFA.

They have also made a demanding football back video, reflecting FIFA’s fondness for portraying poor children from disadvantaged communities playing on dirt fields — with the difference that these children ask a menacing FIFA official to please give football back to them.

In another film clip Fuller explains the reason for the non-sponsorship campaign. “I’m delighted this ongoing non-deal highlights all the values we don’t share with FIFA. It is an exciting non-association, which will shine a light on the organisation’s un-progressive stance, discredited values and all round non-integrity,” says Fuller. “One of the aims of our Official Non-Sponsor campaign is for the real sponsors of FIFA to appreciate the privileged position they occupy and understand that their money continues to enable those at FIFA and their actions.”

Recently sponsors Castrol, Continental Tyres and Johnson & Johnson announced they are not renewing their sponsorship agreements with FIFA. Sony and Emirates had previously declined to renew sponsorship contracts.

Fuller previously influenced change in the International Cycling Union (UCI) through the Change Cycling Now Campaign, which also started with a summit. Skins then cheekily sued the international cycling body because the UCI and its president Patrick McQuaid “turned a blind eye to doping practices, and by doing so tarnished sponsor brands and hurt sales”. He also supported British Cycling President Brian Cookson’s winning bid to replace McQuaid.

The subsequent Skins PureSport campaign introduced a rallying call for sponsors to use their commercial power to ensure fair play in sport, and support anti-doping efforts. Fuller has been invited to address conferences on this issue across the globe — including the Sports Law conference in Cape Town in 2013.

NewFIFANow campaign

The Brussels summit, organised by European parliamentarians Emma McClarkin and Ivo Belet in conjunction with British MP Damian Collins and the former Director of Public Affairs for Australia’s World Cup Bid, Bonita Mersiades, was the first meeting of the #NewFIFANow movement. It attracted speakers from across the world, who spoke out against the discredited FIFA management. “I presented the ethical case for greater demands of better governance by sponsors,” says Fuller.

Andrew Jennings, an investigative journalist whose book Foul! exposed corruption and mismanagement in FIFA, could not attend the summit because of prior commitments, but submitted a paper on how FIFA will become more accountable if all federations are held to Freedom of Information (FOI) principles.

“I urge everybody to demand that their own National Associations adopt FOI voluntarily. If they won’t, our politicians must legislate to enforce it. I know fans would welcome this — many in public service already work with this essential part of modern democracy. Associations adopting FOI should encourage others to follow. Any refusing would be seen as anti-democratic and unwelcome in the football family,” says Jennings.

Other recommendations by Jennings include disclosure of financial matters, salaries, fees, bonuses, hospitality and expenses claims of senior staff and Executive Committee members of FIFA. He demands that all ExCo and committee meetings be open to the public through live streaming. “We would discover what Sepp Blatter pays himself and the cost of his charter jets, imperial lifestyle and secret payments to consultants,” he says.

At the summit players, fans and corporations came together to share their vision for change. Among them were the former chairman of the England Bid and the English FA, Baron David Triesman and FIFA Presidential hopefuls Jerome Champagne and Harold Mayne-Nicholls.

Replacing Blatter?

One of the visions is to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA president in the May elections ... but most players know that it is a lost cause. For now.

Champagne and former French player David Ginola withdrew their candidacies for president after they failed to secure the required minimum of five nominations from football associations. The former head of the FIFA technical inspection committee and Chilean national, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, also withdrew his candidacy, claiming that he didn’t have the necessary credentials.

Three candidates remain in FIFA’s presidential race to challenge Blatter: former Portuguese player Luis Figo, Netherlands FA president Michael van Praag and Asian vice-president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. Figo joined the race very close to the deadline and the Asian Football Confederation said they will support Blatter instead of their vice-presidential candidate.

The many years of dissatisfaction with the way Blatter and his supporters have been running world football came to a head over the surprising and controversial announcements of Russia and Qatar as the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup host countries. Published allegations of bribery and corruption forced FIFA to institute an investigation — but when FIFA’s ethics committee judge Hans-Joachim Eckert cleared Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoings in their bids, the independent ethics chief investigator, Michael Garcia, resigned in protest. His findings, which had previously been leaked to the press, had been covered up by FIFA, Garcia claimed.

“Like the decisions surrounding Russia and Qatar, the farce surrounding the Garcia report is symptomatic of a governing body where democracy, transparency and accountability were long ago forsaken in place of corruption, mismanagement and self-interest,” Collins explains the necessity for the #NewFIFANow campaign.

He believes “people have had enough. It has reached a stage where FIFA is a laughing stock.”

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