A World Cup certainty

13th Jun, 2014

It’s day two and already the media are desperate to create the narrative for this World Cup.

As with all recent World Cups and Olympic Games, the tournament has to be labelled in black and white terms. It will either be a ‘success’ or a ‘failure’. Just as London 2012 was a ‘success’, Athens 2004 was a ‘failure’. Maybe South Africa 2010 is the exception that proves the rule, with the jury still out – on the one hand the security concerns heavily trailed before the tournament did not materialise, but the country has not seen the promised ‘legacy’.

With Brazil 2014 the judgement will depend on whether the street protests stop and the nation is seen to embrace the tournament. The defining images will either be of riot police firing tear gas at protesters, or a happy populace, samba-ing in the streets of Rio. And we sense that the judgement has to be made soon, so that Adrian Chiles, Gary Lineker and co know whether to wear their ‘smiley’ or their ‘serious’ faces as they sit in their studios perched a safe distance above Copacabana beach.

I raise this point because I think the reality of the situation is much more nuanced. Success or failure for whom? FIFA? The Brazilian Government? The Trade Unions? The people of the favelas? They won’t all be happy come July 13th.

There may be other positive outcomes from this World Cup, that have nothing to do with Brazil – maybe this will be the last time that FIFA, the IOC and the politicians of host nations/cities try to ‘sell’ the idea of a tournament bid to their people on the basis of an undeliverable and/or unsustainable promise. We have written a lot in the last few years about rising trends such as C-suite Scrutiny, the Self-Preservation Society and the New Morality. We are seeing here that the ‘Angry Citizen’ of the future simply will not stand for being misled about tournament ‘legacies’.

Maybe another positive outcome will be that FIFA is finally forced to clean up its act. (Though I am starting to tire of the way Ed Milliband says “HE…SIMPLY…DOES…NOT…GET…IT”, when accusing David Cameron of not understanding economic hardship in the UK, I cannot keep the phrase from my mind when thinking of Sepp Blatter, FIFA and corporate governance.)

So, here’s one cast iron World Cup prediction for you. We have seen enough already to know that this World Cup will not be able to be defined as a straightforward success or failure. The reality will be much more nuanced than that. We also know that the IOC, FIFA and their political clients need to create a new, more honest dialogue with the people if the ‘Angry Citizen’ is not to disrupt tournaments in the future.