Governance reform is more important than legacies for multinational sports bodies

By Robbie Barkell

Alive & Kicking is supported by Barack Obama & footballers including Drogba & Eboue

The full effects of the World Cup on South Africa will only be fully evaluated in the longer term, but it is already apparent that FIFA could have done more to ensure the tournament had maximum benefit for the host nation. Whether it’s the local businessman in Cape Town banned from selling his ‘proudly South African’ key rings, or the food vendor in Johannesburg stopped from selling meals to spectators, the media is full of examples where locals were unable to gain from the event which has cost their country close to $6 billion.

In contrast, FIFA is expected to net a total of $3 billion in revenues from the tournament. Of this, $10 million is being spent on its World Cup legacy programme titled ‘20 Centres for 2010’. This will see the construction of 20 Football for Hope centres across Africa, five in South Africa and 15 across the rest of the continent. That’s 1 centre per 3 countries.

This relatively small gesture has prompted some development actors to question whether a legacy programme was necessary at all. “The World Cup highlighted many of the positive aspects of the African continent, however it would have benefitted the region a lot more if the organisers had run it ethically,” says Will Prochaska, of African charity Alive & Kicking. “By supplying merchandise and food from local people and local enterprises, they could have saved themselves the hassle of the legacy programme as the tournament would have generated a social surplus by itself”.

This may sound like a worthy idea, but it is one that FIFA is unlikely to heed no matter how many governmental or non-governmental actors suggest it. This is, in part, due to the governance structures typically found within multinational sports organisations which grant them significant autonomy but little accountability.

The governance issues at FIFA are highlighted by Daniel Kaufmann, the former World Bank lead on transparency and anti-corruption, in his article for the Brookings Institution and by Stefan Szymanski speaking on Radio 4. There are 3 key problems:
1.    Multinational sports organisations hold a monopoly on the arrangement of major events for the sport they represent. This gives national sports associations a weak bargaining position, as opting-out of the body would leave a severe shortage of international competition.
2.    The regional federations (such as UEFA) that elect FIFA’s executive committee members also receive their funding from that same organisation, making it financially risky for such actors to challenge the status quo. Additionally, there are no term limits for committee members or the President.
3.    FIFA is fiercely resistant to pressure from the outside, threatening to ban nations from participation should national governments be seen to be interfering. In fact, by law FIFA is only accountable to Swiss courts.

These problems are not unique to FIFA, and are also embodied in other multinational organisations including the International Olympic Committee. They provide a significant hurdle for anyone trying to bring about positive change to such bodies, and must be remedied if the agenda of these organisations are to become more development-focused.

The Jabulani ball epitomises the World Cup’s legacy for Africa

In awarding the 2010 World Cup to South Africa, FIFA hoped it would allow the tournament to provide a lasting sporting legacy for the wider continent. The experience of the Jabulani ball not only contradicts this belief but also brings into question FIFA’s wider claims to being a socially responsible organisation.

A recent report by the International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF) has revealed that replicas of FIFA’s much-hyped Jabulani ball are being produced by stitchers in Pakistan earning as little as £1.85 a day. Typically working a six-day week, workers take home a minimum of 6,000 rupees a month (less than £50) – under half the recognised living wage in Pakistan. An ILRF survey of stitchers also found that over 50% do not even receive the legal minimum wage per month.

With Adidas targeting £1.2 billion sales this year, the idea of a major corporation maximising profit margins by using cheap labour in the subcontinent isn’t new or surprising. However, in light of the ILRF’s findings, one might question why FIFA didn’t insist on supplying the tournament and its many peripheral outlets with footballs made in fair trade conditions or even made in Africa itself.

“Africa has the skills to stitch footballs for the tournament and for all its attached merchandising,” says Will Prochasha, director of a leading African sports charity. “With high levels of unemployment across Africa, the production of World Cup footballs on the continent would have given a huge economic boost to some of the poorest nations on earth. A great opportunity has been missed for the World Cup to kick-start industry and deliver a lasting legacy to the World Cup”.

Mr Prochaska has the right to be surprised at FIFA’s decision, given that the social enterprise he represents, Alive & Kicking, has been manufacturing and distributing balls in Africa since 2004. It has set up stitching centres in Kenya and Zambia where footballs are made for free distribution to children across Africa. The centres have created hundreds of local jobs, paying a fair wage in areas of high unemployment, and have given nearly 300,000 footballs to children in every country in Africa. All balls they make are sourced from local leather, ensuring they are twice as puncture resistant as imported ones.

Replicas of the Jabulani, stitched in Silcot Pakistan, are currently retailing in South Africa for 249 Rand – more than the average South African weekly wage. They are made out of a synthetic material which is poorly adapted to the rough playing conditions common in Africa, and their 8-panel design makes them difficult to repair if they burst.

In the face of such evidence, FIFA’s claim to be providing a legacy to Africa via the World Cup does not appear to hold up. It would appear that the lure of lucrative sponsorship deals have once again trumped the opportunities for encouraging social and economic change that the World Cup has the potential to create.

By Robbie Barkell

Check out ACTSA’s World Cup actions

The World Cup is on the very near horizon and brings with it more than just the promise of good football. This tournament, which begins in a fortnight, will be held in South Africa and is the largest tournament ever held on African soil.

There is more to this World Cup than football. Though South Africa has made huge strides since the downfall of apartheid, there still remains a society that is racked with inequality, poverty and illness. The scourge of HIV/AIDS is taking its toll on every section of society, yet it is the poorest that feel the pain the most.

Action for South Africa (ACTSA) have launched a ranges of resources and we really encourage you to take a look!

They are calling for action too. They are calling on the British Government to help eradicate mother to child transmission of HIV by the next World Cup in 2014. So much has been done in the developed world, but not enough elsewhere. Help them get this done by taking their e-action!