Why FIFA
Does Not Need a Reform

A personal take from the
Business Process Management Angle

You do not need to be a fan of Football (known as Soccer in the USA) to have noticed that something big has happened in the world of a sport which is practiced by more people than Christian religion is. And you may have come to notice that at the centre of the news stories there is a man named Joseph Blatter, a Swiss national aged 79. He was, is and — for some more years to come — will be the head of the FIFA, the organisation which governs world Football.

He is liked enough to get voted into the job again after having had it for 17 years already but also disliked so much that pretty much everywhere in the world commentators wrote and said that FIFA urgently needs a reform. I freely admit that I love football (while being a nightmare of a player), that I am not fond of Mr. Blatter (extremely diplomatically put) and yet I disagree with the argument, that FIFA needs a reform of its structures and institutions. And here is why…

Reforming in Business Actually Means to…..

…. reform the shape of something. I have no MA in English Language or Literature but “form” is a synonym for “shape” and “re” refers to repeating something or doing something all over again. The means remain pretty much the same, yet they get a new look and feel.

Reforming in business is what we know rather as Kaizen, the continuous improvement process where Quality Circles or likewise working-groups meet and look for ways to make things run better on the shop-floor level. So after a Kaizen project one is most likely to have the same people, tools and machinery on the shop-floor but probably in a much different arrangement which requires less space and with different measuring and signalling. Some portion of the work may be different but since the suppliers to and the customers of the process remain the same, the changes are quite limited.

There are ways to improve even Kaizen Processes. At Volkswagen AG they adopted their own version of Kaizen called KVP Square. It refers to the belief of the German Automaker to have developed a much speedier process to bring Kaizen-style change and improvements to the shop-floor or to offices and even design processes.

Mr. Blatter has been called on many times in recent years and days to introduce reforms to FIFA and he has promised them again and again. Indeed FIFA as it currently works is the result of the reforms he has introduced in the past (official and unofficial practices). While he may (or may not) have willingly or decisively worked towards the organisational state FIFA is in today, the process of “reform” is actually the process FIFA is already in, has already been for over a decade.

And if the current state is not the one the ongoing reforms were aiming for then from a management perspective there is no case for yet another reform or refining or redefining the reform. A dead horse remains as dead as dead can be, even if you change the man riding, the trainer, the stable, the diet, the veterinarian or even give it a new designer-saddle.

From a business management perspective FIFA evidently needs something different than continued reforms.

BPR — The “Clean Sheet” Approach

Now the next better weapon in the management arsenal — when you cannot simply improve what there is or have reached limit for continuous improvements — is designing it new from the ground through the use of Business Process Reengineering.

As beautiful as a idea is and as many successful examples literature may have about starting with a “clean sheet of white paper” there are two every day aspects making this concept hard to implement.

For one, it is next to impossible to switch off one’s mind and thoughts and to ignore “lessons learned” from the daily routine when designing a business process from scratch. Even with external help it gets hard to avoid looking at existing interfaces with other Business Processes as they are today and to subconsciously design from that “given” point of orientation.

And while as a matter of fact BPR is supposed to be “all new” in most cases the same “old” people will work in such “new” processes creating frictions and disruptions and the “need” to reform newly established processes (back to the old ones). Under the assumption that some if not all of the current people within the structures of FIFA are feeding the root causes of the organisation’s troubles any BPR-Project would be hard to conduct.

And even if new structures could be implemented their flocking with old thinking would disrupt such a new system from day one and send it onto the same spiralling downward trend the Public Image of FIFA is currently on; so low that even strong brands like Coca Cola (unsinkable as long as they do not tell people they touched the original formula) publicly state concern about the future of their Sponsorship of FIFA.

Going for New all the Way

In the old days of business management, if you could not keep improving or making it all new and better you were Toast! Indeed what is there beyond becoming better or making new?

There is starting all over again! I talk about a real true new Start-Up!

FIFA is nothing more than 209 National Football Associations and their regional bodies for Europe, North and Central America including dozens of Caribbean Island Nations, South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. No one must be a member of FIFA and no one must obey FIFA (it’s a free world after all).

Sanctions against any current National Football Association breaking away from FIFA would be a given, meaning also that players who once played in a break-away Association would not be let back into a Football League which’s ruling body is a member of FIFA. But there is a strong business case for a Start-Up given that many of the strong National Associations from Europe (most of all England) are fed up with FIFA and in the USA probably not being a member of an organisation under investigation by the FBI is of a plus — if not with Sponsors an authorities then for sure with Soccer Moms.

The Football Startup for the New Millennium

Yes we are more than 1/7 already into the “new” millennium (but hey, I felt the headline is catchy).

A Startup can do what has not been done before and being a Startup it has no old thinking and no representatives of old structures on board. A Startup can implement financial tranparency from day one in all its processes. Indeed if the folks at Bufferapp can give their financial data and performance data out live online, then no organisation which truly in action (not words) does want to be transparent should do less and in terms of Sports could do more.

A Startup can even start with no Business, no Customers just a great idea. And yes, I (like maybe 500 million or more fans) feel a replacement for FIFA would be the best thing that could happen to the sport. Yes, a Startup requires financing and some really passionate folks to lay the right foundation in terms of structures and technology.

But a Startup can be launched by anybody: If this was still the 1980s Cola-Wars then IMO Pepsi Co. by now would have started a Guerrilla Maketing Campaign with the core goal of launching an alternative Global Governing Body for Football. And while this may rather be a wishful thinking, but an “A sip of Coke is a sip for Sepp”-Guerrilla Campaign might even win someone over who cares more about Football than Coca Cola.

From Superstars like Luis Figo to SONY Corp. (which allegedly broke ties with FIFA over corruption concerns) there are many people and corporations such a Startup could try to get on board. If not for the CSR then at least for the sheer marketing-stunt this could win you hearts and minds for your brand. Your chances as a brand to get a FIFA deal surely are small enough to let those go!

If successful, keeping out anybody who has ever worked for FIFA would be a must for that Startup, as would be to keep anybody out who inside his National Football Association worked with FIFA or supported the current structures. Unhealthy viruses spread fast especially if money is tied to their backs! Startups can avoid hiring or associating with the wrong ones.

Conclusion

I am not better than 99.9 percent who feel frustrated about something yet never to the extend where they would throw their old life out and dedicate themselves to lead the cause for a better tomorrow — in World Football in this case.

Having the ability and agility to do so is something I personally do admire about true serial entrepreneurs, who see/feel a need and rather build their own solution than waiting for it to magically happen or just write a Blog post about it — like me.

Football is rooted deep inside my German DNA but it is not my number one passion in life. But still I feel passionately about it and would always sign to the quote that Football (aka Soccer) is not about Life and Death. Football is about MORE than that. So probably while I wrote this someone with a leadership spirit for matters of Football is already getting a team ready somewhere.

Because FIFA does not need a reform — it needs to come to an end!
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