I ran across a report about a week ago that said the folks at FIFA headquarters in Zurich were “exploring the possibilities” for moving significant parts of those headquarters to a city in the US. That caught my attention because in Europe – and in many other parts of the world – futbol/soccer is the predominant sporting enterprise and sporting interest. In the US, soccer is at best the fourth most important sport and most likely the sixth or seventh most important sport. So, I wondered why FIFA would even consider such a change.
The part of the organization that might be moved would be the folks who oversee the commercial side of FIFA’s activities. Those are the folks who do things like negotiate media rights deals and official sponsorships for entities under FIFA’s domain. According to the report I read, FIFA itself as the sport’s global overseer takes in more than $2B per year. That number tells me that there would be more than a couple of US cities that would seek to be the landing spot for that enterprise.
According to the report, the folks at FIFA see a presence in the US as valuable for two reasons:
- There are plenty of people in the US that have experience dealing with the financial and commercial aspects of major sporting enterprises. FIFA sees a talent pool here that can run its current operations and potentially expand them. Current rules in Zurich demand that FIFA employ a minimum number of Swiss employees; presumably, that would not be the case in the US.
- If a FIFA presence here were to spark interest in soccer in the US – and soccer indeed is growing in interest and importance here – then there is room for a lot of market expansion for FIFA to exploit.
Several years ago, the US Department of Justice indicted several FIFA officials on corruption and bribery charges. Those charges led to a change in FIFA leadership and prodded the Swiss authorities to launch its own investigation. Nothing much has happened on the Swiss side of that investigation leading the current FIFA leadership to be at odds with the local authorities. Suffice it to say that FIFA officials and Swiss officials do not see eye to eye on several matters.
As with any complicated agreement, there are hundreds of details to be worked out before anyone starts packing up their household things in Zurich for shipment to Wherever, USA. However, this is an interesting development when you recall that FIFA’s World Cup Tournament will be held in the US in 2026.
Let me stick with the sport of soccer for a while longer today and draw your attention to the darker side of the sport. Soccer is a passion in various parts of the world that goes beyond the visceral levels of fandom here in the US.
- Recall that a Colombian player named Escobar accidentally scored an “own goal” that knocked his Colombian national team out of a World Cup tournament about 30 years ago. He was murdered about a week after that “own goal”.
- Also recall that English soccer clubs were banned from participation in European soccer events about 40 years ago because of the hooliganism of English fans who would travel to see their team play. Some Liverpool fans were tried and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after a melee in Belgium.
I bring that up because just this week a soccer coach for a team in a “third-tier Argentine league” in northwestern Argentina was shot in the shoulder after gunfire broke out at a soccer match; indications are that he was “collateral damage” and not the target of the gunfire. Nevertheless, whatever it was that incited fans to fight among themselves – – reports say that the fighting erupted among fans of only one of the sides and not between supporters of both teams – – led quickly to gunfire. That side, Huracan Las Heras, issued a statement about its fans. They want real fans to attend games and they want the troublemakers to stay home so that the “real fans” and their families can come to the games.
One last soccer item for today … I happened to glance at the English Premier League (EPL) table – or standings – recently and noted that the season is about 25% over. As usual, there are a half dozen dominant teams and a half dozen teams whose only realistic objective for the season is to seek to avoid relegation to a lower-level league where revenues are also lower – – much lower. There is an interesting symmetry expressed by the top team and the bottom team in the EPL as of today.
- Chelsea has played 10 games. They have 8 wins, 1 loss and 1 draw.
- Norwich has played 10 games. They have 0 wins, 8 losses and 2 draws.
- Chelsea has scored 26 goals and allowed 3 goals in those 10 games.
- Norwich has scored 3 goals and allowed 25 goals in those 10 games.
Naturally, I had to go and see if Chelsea and Norwich had played each other yet this year. [Aside: The EPL schedule has every team playing every other team twice in a season; there are no divisions or conferences there.] Indeed, the two sides met on October 23rd at Chelsea’s home field; here was the result:
- Chelsea 7
- Norwich 0
As bad as that looks, the stats for that game are even more startling. Chelsea took 23 shots in the game and 13 were recorded as “on target”. Norwich took 3 shots in the game and only 1 was “on target”. Unless Norwich has about a half-dozen quality players recovering from injuries who will be back on the team soon, I think the team owners had better plan to take in significantly less revenue next year as the team is relegated to the Championship League. As they teach you in the Boy Scouts, “Be prepared.”
Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close today with this observation by author, Fran Lebowitz:
“Smoking is, as far as I am concerned, the entire point of being an adult. Many people find smoking objectionable. I myself find many – even more – things objectionable. I do not like aftershave lotion, adults who roller-skate, children who speak French, or anyone who is unduly tan. I do not, however, go around enacting legislation and putting up signs.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………