Sepp Blatter must stand down as FIFA president if the governing body’s branding is not to suffer irreparable damage.
That is the view of sports marketing consultant Nigel Currie in the wake of yesterday’s hugely damaging revelations over allegations of bribery and corruption.
Blatter, 79, is seeking a fifth term in office as he prepares to go head to head with Prince Ali Bin al Hussein of Jordan in FIFA’s presidential election tomorrow.
However, Currie believes he must vacate his throne if the organisation is to salvage its reputation.
He said: “It’s farcical, really. For him to believe he can carry on, he is living in a fantasy world because the wave of opinion against him is so great that you couldn’t possibly hope to go on with any credibility with what is happening, and probably a lot more to come out.
“It’s not going to go away, this story. It’s like a politician – well, he is a politician – who is involved in a scandal or some crisis. It can only go on for so long before eventually you have to fall on your sword.
“I am amazed it hasn’t happened yet, but it’s got to happen. He’s a busted flush, really.
“To try to hold on to power is ridiculous at this stage because the brand of FIFA is so badly damaged, something radical has got to happen to turn that around, and that starts at the top.”
FIFA was plunged into crisis when police swooped in Zurich to arrest seven officials, including two vice-presidents, amid claims of impropriety surrounding World Cup bidding, the 2011 presidential election and major sponsorship deals.
Currie believes the latest developments in a saga which has been gathering pace for some time will have a hugely detrimental effect on the governing body, and voiced the opinion that it may even have to change its name if it is to prosper in the future.
He said: “Primarily, it’s got to be seen to be addressing the situation and co-operating fully and getting to the bottom of what’s happened.
“We just don’t know the extent of it – it sounds pretty bad – but it absolutely needs to be a complete restart for the brand, even potentially a change of name.
“The more that comes out and the longer this drags on, the more the lack of respect for the FIFA brand continues, so something significant needs to happen - and you would obviously start with the man at the top.”
Sponsors have already expressed concern at the situation with the likes of Visa, adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai and McDonald’s among those monitoring the situation.
However, Currie does not expect any swift decisions on that front.
He said: “The sponsors’ situation is tough. The World Cup as an event is so fantastic, we can’t get away from that. It’s what protects FIFA and provides all its money, but it is an unbelievably effective global marketing tool and all the biggest brands in the world do want to be a part of it.
“There is nervousness – Coke will be nervous about their competitors, as will Visa, as will adidas. adidas are signed up until 2030, and they have got an awful lot of history and experience and knowledge and planning that goes into these events.
“It’s not as simple as just saying, ’We’ll just stop there’. It’s a huge, huge marketing investment, and the same for Coca-Cola. Every bottle of Coke you buy in World Cup periods around the world has some sort of World Cup promotion. It’s not as simple as just saying, ’Sorry, we don’t want to do that any more’.
“But they are big decisions and, on top of that, they will be nervous that it will get sorted out. There might be a new regime, it might take a bit of time.
“But it’s a long time until the next World Cup, so they won’t want to jump ship just in case they get it all sorted out and there’s a new lot comes in that apparently would seem to be running it properly.”