2015's Supporters Summit, jointly hosted by the Football Supporters’ Federation and Supporters Direct, took place in Manchester's Mercure Hotel on Saturday 18th July 2015. The FSF AGM took place the following day...
There’s little doubt that the biggest off-field football story of the past 12 months has been the alleged corruption scandal which has engulfed FIFA. It might yet see the back of Sepp Blatter although you’d be wise to take his supposed resignation with a hefty pinch of salt.
It seemed an obvious subject to tackle at the FSF/SD Supporters Summit as fans grappled with the magnitude of the task in hand. Just how can you land a blow on the FIFA Death Star? Our timing was pretty good as, the previous day, Coca-Cola demanded third-party reform of FIFA.
“We believe that establishing this independent commission will be the most credible way for Fifa to approach its reform process and is necessary to build back the trust it has lost,” said Coca-Cola. “We are calling for this approach out of our deep commitment to ethics and human rights and in the interest of seeing Fifa succeed.”
With FIFA’s electoral system repeatedly returning a victorious Sepp Blatter to power, many supporters feel that lobbying FIFA’s sponsors is the most effective route to turning the organisation around and reengineering its governance structures.
The "FIFA Question Time" panel – hosted by Lynsey Hooper (OffSide Rule podcast) and featuring Jaimie Fuller (New FIFA Now/Chairman of SKINS), Stephen Russell (Playfair Qatar) and ex-MP and Fulham fan Tom Greatrex – picked up this theme and encouraged supporters to do just that.
Jaimie pointed that FIFA cannot reform itself and that Blatter’s re-election, after all the bad publicity that preceded it, was proof of this. He backed Coca-Cola’s demand for third-party reform and suggested an independent commission led by someone such as Kofi Annan – a figure who has global legitimacy but is not in the pocket of any sports body.
Where firms suffer from financial under-performance and are forced to bring in an administrator, Jaimie described FIFA as experiencing “moral bankruptcy” and proposed reform based on three fundamental principles – increased fan representation, increased player representation and increased female representation.
The impetus for change couldn’t be trusted to arise internally, so fans and individuals everywhere should look to FIFA’s leading sponsors as vehicles for their dissent. Tom agreed, emphasising the powers of the sponsors as the only force that can synthesise popular opinion into a monetary, corporate language that FIFA would be forced to listen to.
The following day’s FSF AGM would see a motion passed calling on fans to lobby FIFA’s sponsors, insisting they pressure the organisation to ensure “robust safeguards against corruption” and “demand an independent commission to propose changes to FIFA’s statutes ensuring transparent and fair elections and transparent governance”. Find out how you can lobby FIFA’s sponsors here.
The conversation turned to the controversial Qatar World Cup, playing to the expertise of Stephen Russell, the co-ordinator of the Playfair Qatar campaign. He argued not that Qatar should never have been given the World Cup, but that it should only have been offered with an ultimatum: improve labour standards and workers’ rights, or you don’t get it.
The panel discussed the difficulties for LGBT fans who want to travel to Russia, where societal homophobia is rife, or Qatar, where it is illegal. Boycotting is an option, but Stephen pointed out that mobilising fans to do so is surprisingly difficult.
Jaimie thought the only real option is retrospective regret and increased motivation to make sure this “never happens again”. He said the strongest point for negotiation on a political basis was before handing Qatar and Russia the competitions, not afterwards. FIFA had missed out on the opportunity to be a force for good, which was to be expected of a group whose main concern is monetary profit.
The panel ended on a positive yet cautionary note: serious reform would take time, but be worth it in the long run. An appropriately governed FIFA had the potential to change things for the better and the widespread coverage of its corruption had angered fans across the world enough for such change to be possible.
WORKSHOPS: Following the "FIFA Question Time" panel debate delegates visited a range of workshops - in total eight were run over the full day. You can see more details and any post-event notes/actions here.
- FSF Annual Review 2015
- FSF AGM pack - includes electoral/motion info
- Domestic & International (Accounts year ended 31/1/15)
- FSF Services Ltd (Accounts year ended 31/1/15)
Videos by Spirit of Shankly filmed at Supporters Summit:
The event was supported by BT Sport and The Supporters Club, the broadcaster’s initiative that aims to use sport to improve the lives of disadvantaged youngsters. The sponsorship has played a significant role in allowing the Supporters Summit to be free for all fans.
Thanks to Bobby Gardiner for his contribution to this article.