Politics and corruption in sport has been impacting numerous sports in the past through boycotting of Olympics, recently run state-funded doping programs in Russia or the multiple match-fixing cases in Cricket and the betting racket in Tennis.
Football had steered clear of controversies until the fag end of Sepp Blatter’s departure as FIFA president, but the proposed investments in FIFA by Softbank and Vision Fund has got the footballing fraternity worried about the future of the global game.
What is the concern?
While addressing the FIFA council in Bogota, Colombia in March, FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced a revamp of FIFA Club World Cup and a proposed new Global National League tournament, but at a cost, FIFA would get a $25 billion investment from Softbank, which would see FIFA giving away 49% stake in the tournaments, at that time Infantino also cited that he couldn’t reveal the name of the investor as a confidentiality agreement was signed, this announcement sent the alarm bells ringing, with UEFA openly criticizing FIFA’s motives.
Middle East – Money, Power, Football
The sovereign-wealth fund of Saudi Arabia is the single largest investor in Softbank. Saudi Arabia has developed a more ambitious worldview in sports investment under its new crown prince, Sheikh Muhammad bin Salman. A lot has been said about Saudi Arabia wanting to demonstrate their soft power to compete against Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and football is the medium to show their ambition.
Abu Dhabi has invested in Manchester City and other clubs worldwide, Qatar has invested in football sponsorships with clubs in Spain and Italy, ownership of Paris St. Germain and winning the bid to host the World Cup.
Saudi Arabia has a bigger vision and they have already demonstrated that with setting aside investments for their football project via the Vision fund and most recently inviting Asian countries and brief them about creating a footballing bloc with promises of investments in developing football and strengthening together.
However, their plan of owning a stake in FIFA is by far the most ambitious idea. If this goes through, football will witness the biggest disruption in Sports and will experience a seismic change in the way continental football associations are administered.
How will FIFA and member countries and Clubs benefit from this move?
If this proposal is accepted by FIFA members, National associations and Clubs will stand a chance to pocket big sums of monies but at the cost of playing more minutes.
Here’s an infographic that captures the commercial information about the planned disruption by Softbank and Vision Fund