This week the media is full of stories about corruption at FIFA.
Stories of corruption and fraud that stretch back years, possibly decades. Including the tale of one corrupt official spending thousands of dollars a month to rent a luxury apartment just for his cats.
Reports that bribery has influenced the awarding of world cup events.
Allegations of corruption have swirled around FIFA for years. The biggest surprise is not the extent of the bribery and corruption, nor the number of officials with their snouts in the trough. It is the length of time that the organisation has been allowed to get away with the cover up.
Equally interesting is the (as yet) lack of outrage from all the campaigners who are so quick to condemn businesses for the slightest hint of “unfair” practices, crucify corporate executives for “excessive” pay packages and criticise law enforcement agencies for enforcing the law.
This post is not about the sordid details of the unfolding FIFA scandal. That is just the latest in a series of examples of professional sports organisations being treated as the personal empires of their leaders. Leaders who are strangely exempt from the harsh spotlight applied to business leaders.
The scandal does however highlight glaring questions about our ability to handle opportunities that come with weakly defined boundaries.
It raises the question of whether squandering $6000 a month on an apartment for cats is merely a higher level of the same illegal act as taking home a few pens or paper clips from the office. Or using the office copier for children’s homework projects or repairing a personal car on company time using company materials.
All are symptoms of an entitlement mindset. Few of us would call for the occasional paper clip pilferer to be exposed, fired and sent to jail. But most reasonable people would welcome disgrace and lengthy prison terms for the major league corrupt officials who seem to have fed off FIFA’s gravy train.
It is further evidence that few people who have wealth thrust on them suddenly, without having to work long and hard for it, are capable of handling it.
This is supported by the huge number of lottery winners who quickly squander their new-found wealth. Often ending up with finances, health and relationships much worse off than before their good fortune.
It’s a paradox that in this and many other financial scandals, the perpetrators are not poverty-stricken. Most are comfortable, they do not need to steal to provide for their basic needs, many are already wealthy. A similar paradox that finds many shoplifters could easily pay for the goods they steal
Abraham Lincoln said
“Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man’s character,
give him power”
.Change “power” for instant wealth or add access to easily diverted sources of cash to power from appointed positions and it is obvious that most lottery winners and many appointed officials fail the character test.
It’s easy to feel outrage at the extent of the FIFA corruption, the diversion of huge sums of sponsors money to greedy officials, the damage to the sport.
Let’s hope that this time, the investigations will be conducted ruthlessly, that all the guilty will be punished and that soccer will benefit by having a leaner, transparent and effective governing body.
Let’s also hope that as a society we stop excusing for so long those who feel entitled to act illegally to corruptly enrich themselves, whether in the sports, public or private sectors.
How do you believe you would manage unexpected wealth or exposure to the temptation of large easily justifiable but fraudulent commissions? Would you pass Abraham Lincoln’s character test?
soccer ball photo by mack2happy / freedigitalphotos.net