BENJAMIN WEY, the American journalist and financier has been a soccer fan since he was a boy.
Last week was a crazy one in the world of international soccer. Friday, Sepp Blatter was elected to his fifth consecutive term as president of FIFA, the world governing body of the sport. Two days earlier, several of his lieutenants were arrested at the behest of the U.S. government for corruption. And then, on Tuesday of this week, Blatter announced his resignation. I, Benjamin Wey, tip my hat to him for putting the good of the organization first. Regardless of what you think of him (and a lot of soccer fans don’t think much of him at all), Blatter’s departure is a necessary condition for FIFA to clean itself up.
Just how bad are things at FIFA? Fourteen people were indicted for corruption, seven of them FIFA bigwigs. The amounts involved are alleged to be above $150 million. Swiss authorities have opened a criminal inquiry into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Swiss police raided FIFA’s Zurich headquarters seizing electronic evidence. Europe’s governing soccer body, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), is considering a boycott of the next World Cup and a possible split from FIFA altogether.
In announcing that he would quit, Blatter said, “I am very much linked to FIFA and its interests. Those interests are dear to me and this is why I am taking this decision. What counts most to me is the institute of Fifa and football around the world.”
Over the weekend, it looked like Blatter was going to make a bad situation worse by hanging on and by denying that there was a problem. He himself threw gasoline on the fire. “It’s hatred, coming not only from one person at UEFA but the organization of UEFA, who can’t accept that it was 1998 when I became president,” he said, speaking to Swiss television’s RTS. “The journalists made a deal: Blatter out. I forgive everyone, but I do not forget.”
He then added, “No one is going to tell me that it was a simple coincidence that this American attack came two days before the FIFA elections. It doesn’t smell right. This has touched me and FIFA. … The Americans were the candidates for the World Cup of 2022 and they lost. The English were the candidates for 2018 and they lost, so it was really the English media and the American movement.”
When a group like FIFA — or a corporation or a university or whatever — runs into this kind of trouble, there are some well-proven ways to protect the reputation of the group. As you can tell from the statements I, Benjamin Wey, have quoted, Blatter and FIFA weren’t doing themselves any favors.
“It’s time for FIFA to dump its current management and engage a new team and move forward from the past. It’s too big a stigma to ignore before these reputational damages hurt the entire FIFA franchise.” Says management science expert Benjamin Wey, CEO of New York Global Group, a leading private equity investment firm on Wall Street.
First and foremost, you need to acknowledge that you have a problem that will hurt your reputation and your credibility.
Sticking your head in the sand and hoping it will go away doesn’t work, and by the time the problem becomes unavoidable, most of the damage is irreversible. By arguing that there is an Anglo-American conspiracy to topple him, Blatter was ignoring the corruption charges’ possible validity.
Second, put a spokesperson in front of the press who has all the facts in hand, and make sure it’s someone whom the media will believe.
All the truth in the world will do you no good if the media thinks the person telling it is a liar. Blatter himself is too closely tied to the story to be credible. His departure means that whoever emerges will get the benefit of the doubt.
Third, keep your cool.
Nothing makes you look guiltier in the eyes of the world than having a temper tantrum when you are questioned. Blatter’s “forgive but not forget” statement makes him sound wounded and vindictive. Departing now has prevented that from getting worse.
“I’m sorry” are the most effective words in any language when addressing a mistake. And none of this, “I apologize if anyone was offended.” That’s not really an apology at all. Judging from the public remarks, Blatter was not going to apologize at all. Maybe for legal reasons he can’t. By leaving, he lets FIFA make whatever apology is needed to save the organization.
Fifth, draw up a plan of action to address the issues that led to the unpleasant situation.
If you take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again because it can’t happen again, the story is more likely to die of its own accord. Somewhere at FIFA headquarters, there might be such a plan. Under Blatter, it would never be taken seriously. With him out of the picture, the body can get on with whatever plan it has or might construct.
Whatever happens to Blatter (an indictment, a conviction, a complete vindication), it no longer touches so directly on the organization he led for 16 years. Sometimes the best thing a leader can do is stop leading.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BENJAMIN WEY is an accomplished investigative journalist and Wall Street financier. Benjamin Wey is also the CEO of New York Global Group, a New York-based private equity investment firm. Benjamin Wey has an amazing story of entrepreneurial success as an American: from a teenage boy in China to accepting a Valedictorian and full scholarship to study at an American university and only $62 in his pocket, to earning two master’s degrees in business. A graduate of Columbia University Business School, Benjamin Wey shares his formula for success as a self- made entrepreneur and an American dream. Benjamin Wey is also a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine and other media outlets.