The business of football
The business of football

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The business of football

2 Understanding power

So far this week you have explored the globalisation of football and examined some of the factors that have played a part in spreading football and its wider industry across the globe. These final sections explore power and how power relations operate from a commercial, political and organisational perspective.

We have chosen this subject because having a grasp of how power works, amongst individuals within organisations, between organisations and within societies as a whole, is central to understanding any industry, including football.

Now listen to the BBC radio programme clip ‘FIFA, Football, Power and Politics’ which charts the rise of FIFA as a powerful organisation in football. As you listen, note the different ways in which the former head of FIFA, Brazilian João Havelange, worked to raise the profile and global reach of the organisation.

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Transcript: FIFA, Football, Power and Politics

The writer David Goldblatt now examines the long and unexpected journey towards it's domination of the game.

Sepp Blatter [broadcast audio]
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is Qatar.
Commentator [broadcast audio]
That is astonishing! 'Expect Amazing' is their slogan and a lot of people in the room will be amazed.

[Siren noise]

David Goldblatt
The FIFA World Cup has become the greatest show on earth, a celebration of the universal virtues of play. Its gigantic television audiences are the closest that we come to humanity as an imagined community. Like all International Sports Federations, FIFA, the global governing body of World Football, holds the game in trust for the rest of us and claims to serve our universal interests. And just for a moment awarding the World Cup to Qatar appeared inspired. The Arab world's first sporting mega event, and combined with Russia's successful bid for the 2018 World Cup, a recognition of the new global geography of power. In the last half century FIFA and the world of football have been transformed by the globalisation of television and economic and political power.
To understand the origins of FIFA's current malaise we start in Paris in 1904 where representatives of seven European Football Associations founded the organisation. The British, although implored to join, stood aloof and distant, and, as Professor Paul Dichy, France's Leading Football Historian explains, of their wider social mission.
Professor Paul Dichy
There are a lot of organisations which aimed to create internationalism in many fields; art, sciences, culture. The creation of IOC, ten years before the creation of FIFA, was part of this movement. So the first intention was to insert football in this movement of internationalism. Organise, develop international football.
David Goldblatt
Absent at the moment of creation, the British did join FIFA, only to leave the organisation twice after the First World War and remained outside the FIFA fold until after the Second. Unperturbed, FIFA continued to grow, adding new members on every continent
Professor Paul Dichy
The creation of the World Cup in 1930 is a result of huge conflict between FIFA and IOC. Born with the success of the football tournament, one of the most popular events of the Olympic Games, and a major source of income, but in the same time the footballers were not real amateur. After the Olympic Games of Paris, 1924, the IOC decide to apply a very restrictive definition of amateurism. FIFA officials were convicted that the need to organise their own competition, a competition open to the professional and the World Competition…
David Goldblatt
The British press barely reported the 1930 World Cup, but the rest of the world took note. In 1934 Mussolini's Italy staged the second World Cup and applied the arts of political stage management and global PR to the occasion. France 1938 was no less political: a demonstration that a democracy could stage a mega event as well as any fascist dictatorship. As Professor Paul, author of Africa, Football and FIFA argues, the new players meant the Darby rules of the game were going to change as well.
Professor Paul Darby
European football nations had treated FIFA as a private club in terms of access to high profile administrative places, hosting rights for the World Cup, in terms of opportunities to participate in the World Cup.
African nations when they acquired their independence. what they wanted to do was to assert themselves on the world stage. So within the space of maybe five to ten years there was a considerable African constituency within the context of FIFA, and of course this generated huge problems for the world organisation.
Professor Paul Dichy
The conflict exploded at the occasion of the English World Cup in 1966; only one place at the final competition was reserved to Africa, Asia and Oceania. A major part of the African Federation decided to boycott the preliminary competition to the World Cup. Thanks to that they obtained for the next World Cup one place reserved to Africa. But they wanted more.
Professor Paul Darby
For the African nations progress was far too slow. And of course waiting in the wings at this time was João Havelange
David Goldblatt
João Havelange was a supreme networker who had woven together a tapestry of sporting, political and industrial contacts that had made him a millionaire businessman, a member of the IOC and since 1970 the President of the Brazilian Football Association. His challenge arose from a mixture of vaulting ambition and simmering discontent in World Football with the dominance of Europe. He was multilingual, charismatic and ruthless. Guido Tononi, a former Media Director at FIFA and a close aide to both Havelange and Blatter, saw the new president at close quarters.
Guido Tononi
Havelange was maybe the biggest personality FIFA ever had. He was a very, very strong man, physically strong, and his physical presence was really impressive. You know, he was tall, he was like a man made out of steel. You know, when he looked at your eyes strongly then you did not know what was coming. He knew exactly how to make use of his power.
Professor Paul Darby
The problem that he had when he came to power was that FIFA was not the billion dollar industry that it is today. The World Cup was barely breaking even.
The first relationship that he established was the most significant, and that was a relationship with Horst Dassler, of course the Head of Adidas.
David Goldblatt
Dassler had almost everything; FIFA's ear, global connections, marketing brilliance; but he needed someone who could persuade the world's biggest companies to back football. That man was the marketing expert Patrick Nally.
Patrick Nally
Horst asked me if I would join him to see if I can help make the plan of avalanche work, and one of the companies that I was working with was the Coca-Cola company, and I spent a long time looking at how football, being the universal sport, Coca-Cola being the universal drink, could actually with the universal language work closely together.
David Goldblatt
Was there a sense at Coca-Cola that football, if not quite a Trojan Horse, was certainly a way of getting to the parts they otherwise couldn't reach?
Patrick Nally
The whole basis of our initial discussion was very much on that brief. FIFA gave the ability to go around the world.
Professor Paul Darby
So Coca-Cola effectively provided the finances that allowed Havelange to fulfil his promises to the African continent.
If he wanted to continue to be the figurehead of FIFA he would have to go down this route of commercialisation.
Patrick Nally
When Spain bid for the World Cup, it was based on the format of 16 teams. So for FIFA to actually live up to Havelange's requirements to add more teams from Africa and Asia, we had to take the World Cup from 16 teams to 24 teams.
Guido Tononi
FIFA came from nowhere financially. Now I know that in ‘82 they really had nearly more or less empty cash boxes. In ‘78 it was even worse. In ‘86 it was a contract which was a value of 49 million Swiss Francs for the world television rights, but it was a big money in those days. So it was a restless expansion of the power and of the influence of FIFA. We were creating new tournaments, you know, under 17, under 20, under 23 and for the Olympics the Women's World Cup, the Women's World Cup under 20 and so on and so forth.
David Goldblatt
In 1998 Havelange bowed out at the top of his game. In his 24 years of autocratic rule FIFA had become a much slicker and wealthier operation,
The global boom in football's importance and wealth that began under Havelange reached new heights under Sepp Blatter.
End transcript: FIFA, Football, Power and Politics
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Figure 5 Handling history: FIFA's President, Sepp Blatter holds the ball used in the first ever World Cup in 1930, whilst Gordon Brown holds the 1966 ball, 24 October 2007
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