By Joe Paley, Account Executive [email protected]
FIFA announced last week that it has hired New York-based PR firm Teneo Holdings to help rebuild its image in wake of the criminal justice investigation headed by the US Justice Department.
14 FIFA officials were arrested in May on corruption charges with more expected to be reprehended later this year. To make matters worse, FIFA PR officer Walter De Gregorio was sacked last month after joking about the FIFA crisis during an appearance on a Swiss chat show when he said:
“The Fifa president, secretary general and communications director are all travelling in a car. Who’s driving? The police.”
In light of Gregorio’s poorly timed comments, FIFA decided to appoint Teneo’s President Doug Band, who had previously crossed paths with FIFA when he was put in charge of America’s failed attempt to secure the 2022 World Cup, to lead the organisation’s image rehabilitation. Before football, Band was a special advisor to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s and the Clinton Initiative more recently. He was also responsible for negotiating with the Obama administration in 2008 for then Senator Hillary Clinton to become Secretary of State.
Band’s experience cannot be questioned – but successfully rebranding FIFA may prove to be the biggest challenge of the former presidential advisor’s career. This was evident on Monday afternoon at President Sepp Blatter’s first press conference since announcing his resignation 2 months ago. While it was hoped that Blatter’s speech on FIFA reforms would be viewed positively by the mainstream media, the conference was hijacked by British comedian Simon Brodkin who invaded the stage and deposited notes over Blatter in light of the corruption scandals.
It is quite clear that Doug Band has his work cut out, with FIFA public opinion at an all-time low. Nonetheless, here are 5 things Band needs to consider in order to successfully reinvent FIFA’s image:
- Change the FIFA board:
In order to move into a new age, FIFA not only needs to re-elect a new President next February but restructure the entire cabinet. The organisation is deeply rooted in corruption and although Blatter is set to leave, his closest confidants will still be in their positions. The new President should start with a fresh FIFA executive board.
- A New Name:
The English and Welsh Cricket Board (ECB) recently proposed changing its name to Cricket England and Wales after a turbulent 18 months following the sacking of star player Kevin Pietersen. In comparison to FIFA the ECB’s scandals were rather tepid but even still, executives at the home of English cricket believed a rebrand was necessary. If FIFA wants to move forward from the corruption scandals, the organisation has little choice but to change its name and leave the negative associations with the name “FIFA” in the past.
- A New Logo:
With a new name comes a new logo. PR Officials will need to work carefully with graphic designers and linguists to produce a logo that connotes “the beautiful game” and not the toxicity associated with the organisation presently.
- Change organisational structure:
Despite clearly stating that he would not run again, Blatter won his fifth term in office earlier this year before offering his resignation less than a week later. In the aftermath, the Swiss leader was strongly condemned by the media for turning the most powerful position in football into a dictatorship. Despite the fact that there has been recent speculation that term limits may be introduced, nothing has materialised yet. To give FIFA a successful makeover, the PR team will need to lobby executives to introduce term limits so a Blatter power grab does not happen again.
- Denounce the corrupt:
If FIFA wants to win the hearts and minds of football fans, senior executives will need to openly denounce corrupt individuals and work with prosecutors to give evidence against those being held. We often forget that in times of adversity, there are good people in the world, and there are certainly good people in FIFA.
FIFA has an enormous challenge on its hand to rectify its image in world football. However with good PR it can be achieved – even if it proves to be extremely difficult.