If FIFA was a public company Sepp Blatter would have been fired years ago. That he remains in control just shows that despite FIFA’s corporate cynicism, allegations of bribery and hideous
excesses, such is the global influence of football and FIFA that the media do not have any impact.
The big question is how we deal with the consequences of such diminishing influence and what it means. Are we lost in an echo chamber of viral self-importance, oblivious to media opinion? In FIFA’s case, it seems so.
While the media have exposed some of the alleged abuses, and big-name sponsors pile on the pressure over Qatar, FIFA has done next to nothing and the World Cup goes on unabashed. It has claimed to be working privately with Qatari officials for example, to address some of the issues around civil liberties, but the reality is, it has shown little conviction on the subject and, not surprisingly, made little progress.
The outcry is loud but the media are failing to make a dent. Everyone has an opinion, but instead of extending influence and reach, social media have done the reverse, dissipating the impact of major issues with an ever-shifting audience. Newspapers have a reach where local issues can become global issues, where moments of impact can change the world. But as millions throw themselves into a debate we often see mediocre impact and the emperor’s new clothes. Pressure to debate in an immediate timeframe can often blind us to the real issue. In this day and age organisations such as FIFA know that no matter how hated they are, they will sit in their echo chambers, love their haters and carry on regardless.
No one should feel sorry for Blatter for his apparent lack of self-awareness. It’s the sport that should get the pity. Yet throughout the tsunami of endless bad news and as the heat grows, he remains, for the moment at least, the figurehead.
Despite the invention of new tools and metrics, defining reach and influence in a meaningful way is getting cloudier and medialand is having to sell new processes to snare clients. Often data metrics miss the point. These days everyone has a connection and we are bombarded with self-important and often delusional, mindless opinion. It’s almost impossible to grab meaningful attention through all the noise. With instant feedback and high vocal opinion, does the truth become invisible? Sometimes, are those who move away from interaction, all but ignoring the vitriol, the clever ones?
To survive you have to either be ruthless, or have a clear perception of what you look and sound like, from someone whose opinion is trusted and impartial. Emotion engages and sells. But it can do the reverse. The recent, well-researched allegations in The Sunday Times did not quell the tide of wider issues and responses.
Anyway, there’s a much bigger debate about reach and influence to come. Meanwhile, Blatter’s grip on FIFA seems secure. He can’t resign in shame as apparently he has none.
Mark Borkowski is founder of Borkowski.do