FIFA, Corruption and Abraham Lincoln’s Character Test.

This week the media is full of stories about corruption at FIFA.

FIFA cornered by corruption

FIFA cornered by corruption

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

 

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  6 comments for “FIFA, Corruption and Abraham Lincoln’s Character Test.

  1. Roberta
    May 28, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    I do not know for sure how I would manage unexpected wealth. I like to think I would be a bit better than the average person out there. But you never really know and maybe some day I would give in to temptation.

    However, I base my belief stated above on how I behaved in a work environment where many, many, many employees, including management and governance, took what they could get, including money for themselves.

    While an employee there, I would not take money others would and did take. In one situation I gave what I had not spent on a project back to the employee who was in charge of our project. He said, “keep it. You may need for something else.” *wink* *wink* I said if I need to spend more on the project give me more money at that time.

    I saw a lot of money go to heads of projects that was kept by them and not used for the company project. As you wrote:

    “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. ”

    The company paid us very well and no one really needed to steal, but they did.

    I hope and pray I would live up to Lincoln’s character test.

    I live in an era where people are out just for themselves and the end justifies the means. This goes against my religious up-bringing and my personal ethics.

    Most of the time these days I feel like a fish out of water when it comes living an ethical life.

    Good post, Peter. I look forward to what others will say in comments.

    • Peter
      May 30, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      Thank you Roberta, one of the amazing things I experienced in Africa was how some of the poorest people would readily steal small amounts of food and money to feed their children but others who did not need to steal would take as much as they could whenever they had the chance.

  2. May 29, 2015 at 3:09 am

    Brilliant Peter.
    There is BIG Why for the reason that those already comfrotable seem to Feel the Need for more, through chicanery.
    But maybe Lincoln was right?
    “Nearly all men can stand adversity,
    but if you want to test a man’s character,
    give him power”

    • Peter
      May 30, 2015 at 4:31 pm

      Thank you for your contribution James. I believe that society has always oscillated between extremes. I hope that the pendulum is reaching its zenith as far as entitlement, lack of common sense, instant gratification and more current problems go.

      I don’t know if our generation will see much improvement, but I do believe our children and grandchilden will.

  3. May 29, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    Another Gem, Peter.
    We have shouting against the wind for years about Character Ethic, and railing against the insidious Personality Ethic that has usurped Values in our culture for the past several decades.
    Maybe if enough of us stand taller on our soapboxes and “recruit” others thing could change?

    • Peter
      May 30, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Yes Chuck, but maybe that wind is losing its strength and if we can just get a few more people up on their soapboxes, good sense will prevail.

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