Thursday, October 4, 2012

"How Can FIFA be Held Accountable?" now In Press

I am happy to report that my academic paper titled, "How Can FIFA be Held Accountable?" has been accepted, pending minor modifications, for publication in the journal Sport Management Review. I have some revisions and updating to do over the next few weeks, based on some excellent suggestions from peer reviewers.

Meantime, anyone interested in the version submitted to SMR should drop me an email and I'll gladly share a copy.

Here is the paper's abstract and introduction:
How Can FIFA be Held Accountable?

 Roger Pielke, Jr.
in press, Sport Management Review

Abstract: The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, in a non-governmental organization located in Switzerland that is responsible for overseeing the quadrennial World Cup football (soccer) competition in addition to its jurisdiction over other various international competitions and aspects of international football. The organization, long accused of corruption, has been increasing criticized by observers and stakeholders for its lack of transparency and accountability. In 2011 FIFA initiated a governance reform process. This paper draws on literature in international relations to ask and answer the question: how can FIFA be held accountable? The paper's review finds that the answer to this question is "not easily." The experience in reforming the International Olympic Committee (IOC) more than a decade ago provides one model for how reform might occur in FIFA. However, any successful reform will require the successful and simultaneous application of multiple mechanisms of accountability. The FIFA case study has broader implications for understanding mechanisms of accountability more generally, especially as related to international nongovernmental organizations.


In an inauspicious coincidence, May 31, 2011 was the 100th anniversary of the launch of the Titanic and it was also the date on which Joseph “Sepp” Blatter the much-criticized president of FIFA (the Fédération Internationale de Football Association)1, announced that he would see the organization through the latest charges of corruption that had been leveled against it, declaring, “I am the captain, we will weather the storm together” (Hughes, 2011a). Less than one year later, Blatter continued the metaphor, declaring that the storm had subsided, “we are back in the harbor…and are heading to calm, clearer waters" (Collett, 2012).

Despite Blatter‟s reassurances a storm of controversies continues to surround FIFA, which is the international non-governmental, non-profit organization responsible for governance of global football. The controversies included allegations of corruption such as bribery in the selection process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup venues (chosen as Russia and Qatar), allegations of payoffs for votes in advance of the 2011 FIFA presidential election -- complete with a sordid story of bribes delivered in brown paper bags (Kelso, 2011).

Accountability of FIFA matters for the governance of the sport, the business of football and to the larger issue of the accountability of international organizations. Football brings together people and nations in a manner arguably not seen in any other area of global society. While football itself is not necessarily big business, increasingly football has implications for big business, particularly in the consequences of the periodic decisions associated with hosting the World Cup, which is often tied to large programs of government investment in infrastructure, television rights and sponsorship deals. The governance of FIFA is also a case study in the governance of international organizations, which includes a large class of governmental and non-governmental organizations that justify their legitimacy in terms of serving broadly shared interests. Effective governance of such institutions is thus a matter of common interest (Pieth, 2011).

This paper asks and seeks to answer what seems to be a straightforward question, how can FIFA be held accountable? I answer this question by drawing on the broader academic literature on the governance of international organizations from the problem oriented perspective of the policy sciences. Specifically, I use “seven mechanisms of accountability in world politics” (Grant and Keohane, 2005; Jordan and van Tuijl, 2006) to structure an appraisal of alternative ways in which FIFA might be held accountable.2 Data on FIFA used in the appraisal, a notoriously secretive organization, comes from publicly available documents and media reports. The paper begins with short discussions of accountability and international organizations, FIFA and international football and the current crisis surrounding FIFA.

The paper concludes its survey of mechanisms of accountability with a discussion of the prospects for holding FIFA accountable in practice, drawing on the precedent of the reform of the International Olympic Committee. While the answer to the question posed in the title of this paper is that there are numerous and powerful mechanisms through which FIFA might be held accountable, such mechanisms are indirect and difficult to implement. Direct accountability of FIFA appears unlikely. Holding FIFA to account will require a degree of leadership in international sports governance that has only been hinted at to date.
Full the full pre-final-revision, send me an email request. Thanks! 


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