'Some people believe football is a matter of life and death...I can assure you it is much, much more important than that' - a famous quote by Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool FC manager of the 1960's. Non followers of football may find this quote amusing and a bit extreme, but after the recent revelations about corruption at FIFA, it seems that these kinds of beliefs are still held by Sepp Blatter, his colleagues, and possibly by the World Cup sponsors.
How else can you explain Sepp Blatter's refusal to step down from his post? How else could you explain that despite their public declarations of 'disappointment' not one of the sponsors has yet withdrawn? VISA were first to speak up and came closest to taking a stance by threatening to pull out but after nearly a week of scandal, they have yet to take decisive action. Is being associated with the Football World Cup so valuable in terms of money that the sponsors are willing to risk their own brand values and reputations?
The matter of life and death was being debated long before the latest revelations about corruption. The statistics that have been made public about the number of migrant workers killed whilst building the stadium in Qatar are shocking . No-one has denied the truth of these reports and still the big brands were happy to put their names to the World Cup.
What will it take before they withdraw? More deaths? More scandal? What will it take to remove Sepp Blatter and establish an honest global governing body for football? Is the root of problem in the fact that football is run by millionaires and played by millionaires and the old fashioned values of the beautiful game are as old as Bill Shankly's original quote? He was really talking about his passion but anyone who makes such a statement now is almost certainly driven by greed and power.
The irony is that FIFA established the Fair Play code of conduct to provide global guidance on how they believe the game should be played. Their website outlines this as 'a fundamental part of the game of football. It represents the positive benefits of playing by the rules, using common sense, respecting fellow players, referees, opponents and fans'.
Sadly rumours of their chiefs demanding bribes, the deaths of migrant workers and awarding the tournament to countries ill equipped to host shows that FIFA has an attitude of 'do as I say, not as I do'. Where was the common sense when it was decided that the World Cup would be played in Qatar in the height of summer? Clearly, we now know that their pledge to take football to developing nations was more of a crusade to find other sources of income and probably had very little to do with anything at grass roots level.
It seems unlikely that the sponsors will pull out now so will it be driven by the participating countries? As the nation who gave the game to the world, shouldn't we take the lead in bringing some ethics back to the game? Some have already called for England to withdraw. That would be big news - but as we are unlikely to win, will anyone care whether we are there or not?
It seems that this story will run and run and it also seems unlikely that much will change. If that is the case will the big name brands associated with the World Cup eventually show their true colours and reveal what their true motivation is for sponsorship - money, brand exposure or the love of the game? What can and should the brands do to disassociate themselves from the scandal? Will it really damage them if they don't?
This isn't the first time Coca Cola and McDonald's have been involved in some bad press - yet how many people are thinking of those migrant workers in Qatar when they are hungover and desperate for a Big Mac and Diet Coke. Brands have such a strong influence on the public and this is their chance to show they care. They can’t be seen supporting slavery and corruption – because of the impact it could and should have on their brand perception and power.
Surely, if the current sponsors truly love the game and want to protect it's future they must lead by example and insist that a new governing body is established and the criminals currently in charge are dealt with by law. Or face being seen in the same light as FIFA - greedy and morally bankrupt.