Sepp Blatter’s 17 years as FIFA president came to an end this week, as he announced his intention to resign upon finding a successor at some point next year.
As the FBI narrows in on FIFA, Blatter and the rest of the good people at football’s governing body we take a retrospective look at Blatter’s 17 years as president and try to find out if there were any moments that could have tipped us all off, had we been looking a little closer.
1998 – THE SLOGAN MIX-UP
After hiring a marketing firm to update the organisation’s image and brand, FIFA accidentally changed their slogan from “For The Game. For The World.” to “We’re More Corrupt Than You’ll Ever Know” in September of this year. The mistake wasn’t picked up by officials for two months and thankfully for Blatter and FIFA no one elsewhere noticed.
1999 – THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Sepp Blatter’s 1999 autobiography entitled Game, Sepp and Match: How I Did It was an eye-opening tell-all. 350 of the 400 pages were pictures of Blatter looking at footballs, but the other 50 were jam-packed with many of the juicy details we’re seeing uncovered recently, including one chapter entitled How I Corrupted Football For My Benefit. Poor sales – less than 400 copies were sold – led to the book being pulped in December 1999.
2001 – TIMES SQUARE BILLBOARD
Sepp Blatter, in a move he probably now regrets, rented out an enormous advertising space in Times Square in September 2001 that read “PRESIDENT OF EVERYTHING” and featured him sitting on a throne of money, surrounded by brown envelopes and bottles of Cristal. Thankfully for Blatter, New York quickly became otherwise occupied at the time, meaning the incident passed without any controversy.
2003 – THE RADIO ADS
In 2005 football’s governing body ran a series of late night radio advertisements asking for people with “weak moral fortitude and a nose for a bribe” to send their resumes to a random PO Box in Zurich. Few listened due to the late night timing of the ads but listening back on it, the wording and tone should have had alarm bells ringing.
2005 – MTV’s BRIBE ME A BRIBE
In early 2005, MTV premièred FIFA’s ill conceived reality TV show Bribe Me A Bribe. The show, created to broaden FIFA’s appeal and capitalise upon the success of reality television, was a smash hit and lasted three seasons. Such was its popularity that people seemed undeterred by its premise – which centred around teaching members of the public how to bribe, with tutelage from FIFA officials.
While some of these incidents seem brazen and obvious now, it’s important to remember that the very concept of corruption in football wasn’t universally accepted by the public until 2014. Though hopefully the lessons of yesteryear will allow us to be more vigilant in the future.
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