In May 2015, 10 Swiss plainclothes law enforcement officers burst into the luxurious Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich and slapped handcuffs on a number of high ranking FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Board members as part of indictments of 14 officials who, in the words of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, have:
“Abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”
They assumed the next World Cup would be allocated to the highest bidder, not the most worthy.
The high-flying luxury lifestyles of FIFA officials are coming to an end. Conference calls could have helped FIFA find the road to integrity as an organization, but they chose a different path. Some of them will do jail time for that choice.
FIFA: How to spend money like water
FIFA are camped out over an eternal wellspring that bubbles up cash. 2014 Brazil World Cup revenues were $5 billion, yielding a $3 billion profit after expenses.
The Brazilian Football Association (FA) tucked $1,000,000 worth of luxury Parmigiani watches into 60 “gift bags” for soccer executives after the World Cup, at the same time as FIFA were pleading poverty and telling women players they “couldn’t afford to pay for real grass” for the national women’s teams to play on.
A quality grass pitch costs about $100,000 to build. For each FIFA Executive committee meeting, FIFA spends $100,000 flying members to Switzerland, and putting them up in the five-star Baur du Lac Hotel.
They could meet by teleconference for free.
FIFA could build a free world class pitch for women to play on every time they use conference calls to hold an executive meeting instead of meeting in person.
Building organizational integrity with conference calls.
Call Recording is a simple teleconference technology FIFA should have a good look at. With a few mouse clicks, they could have each conference call meeting recorded. Within two hours, they would have an email with everything in an MP3 file. With a few more clicks, they could have everything converted into a Word doc using Call Transcription.
Call Recording promotes organizational transparency.
By recording their executive meetings, FIFA could avoid embarrassing situations like the recent $2 million payment authorized by President Sepp Blatter to executive board member Michel Platini, that was apparently for a verbal contract for “services rendered” nine years before, but happened to be made a month before Platini reversed his position and voted for a Blatter initiative, that nobody can even remember what it was supposed to be for. The lack of a paper trail hurts organizational integrity.
By spending money like water on perks, and suppressing transparency in favor of back room deals, FIFA have completely lost the confidence of the public, to the point where many observers would suggest that FIFA plutocrats would be wise to use conference calls because meeting all together at the Hotel Baur au Lac makes it too easy for authorities to round them up.
Note to Plutocrats: Using conference calls make extradition proceedings much more complicated.
Luckily, there are still public bodies in sport that are willing to fight the good fight. The International Athletics Association Federations (IAAF) is one of them.
IAAF: careful with the member’s cash
Unlike the International Olympic Committee, (IOC), the IAAF are not sitting on a cash cow, but they find themselves carrying the torch for keeping track and field sports clean. In the same month that FIFA’s organizational integrity fell in like a house of cards, the (IAAF) suspended the Russian Track and Field Federation from entering athletes from international completion for “widespread, systematic cheating” documented in a report released by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission.
The decision to suspend the Russian Federation was taken in a conference call.
The IAAF were under a lot of pressure to make a decision quickly, yet they had the confidence in conference call technology to save their constituents $100,000 on hotels and airfare, and still know that they would make the best decision. And the decision was not easy to make.
There was a lot of soul searching going on in their teleconference, because suspending all Russian athletes means that the clean athletes will be barred from competing too, possibly from the Rio Olympics.
And unlike FIFA’s committees, most of the IAAF’s are made up of retired world class athletes who know all about the misery of training for a dream for four years and missing out, whether to injury, or other fate.
Committee member and Ukrainian pole vault legend Sergei Bubka told his heartbreaking story of missing the 1984 Olympics due to a political boycott.
There probably wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Bubka voted against the sanctions, stating his wish to protect the clean athletes from punishment for the sins of others. The other 26 delegates voted for sanctions, to start a process to clean up international sport.
The three and a half hour call between 27 delegates wasn’t easy, but teleconferencing came through with flying colors, because conference calls are based on a crystal clear audio platform of the modern telephone, which allows the subtlest nuances of emotion and feeling to be heard.
Some people claim geopolitics played a role in the decision, and it surely was a topic of discussion, but the IAAF decision was not a “back room deal”. We know the results of the vote, because teleconferencing promotes transparency.
Conference calls are the clean way to communicate
The world of sport has evolved drastically from the days when amateurs like Percy Williams and his coach had to raise the money to compete at the 1928 Olympics by working as waiters and dishwashers in a railway dining car.
Williams won Gold in the 100 and 200-meter distances, and later set a World Record in the 100 meters, despite having rheumatic fever and being told by his doctor as a high school student “not to participate in strenuous activities.”
He won all his achievements clean.
Although those days are gone, two things will never change. Whether you dope or not, it still takes a lifetime of grueling training and ferocious commitment to become an elite athlete.
And whether you earn the money washing dishes or you put the airfare on your sponsor’s MasterCard, if you want to compete in the Olympics or the World Cup you will probably have to get on a plane.
For everything else, there are conference calls.