Friday, May 29, 2015

(Sports) FIFA: Finally Someone Gave FIFA The Red Card for Bringing The Game Into Disrepute

The events of Wednesday which saw 9 FIFA officials arrested brought a lot of surprise among spectators of the sport but not much shock as football fans across the world are patently aware that FIFA is probably the most corrupt sporting organization in the history of sport itself.

The organization has been subject to one damaging report, inquiry, expose and incident after another for years on end with no one really taking real action to reform the organization or against the number of individuals under the organization’s banner who have been accused of graft until now with the US Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Swiss Attorney General, shocking the world with its bold action against a number of leading officials in the much disliked organization.

We’ve always known that a number of individuals in the organization we’re dirty but looking at the charges levied against the group Swiss authorities bagged up from the stylish Baur au Lac hotel, these soon to be former FIFA officials are looking at serious time behind should they found guilty. According to a report by Forbes magazine, “the charges allege a widespread pattern of corruption—including the bid process for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals, according to three law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the case. According to the report, charges include wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, and officials said they targeted members of FIFA’s powerful executive committee”[1].

The nine individuals charged by US and Swiss authorities are or were high ranking officials in FIFA with some even holding more than one key role including current FIFA Vice president, executive committee member of Caribbean Football Union and Cayman Islands Football Association President Jeffrey Webb, Former FIFA vice president and CONCACAF president Jack Warner and current FIFA vice president and executive committee member Eugenio Figueredo. The charges are also levied against four other sports marketing executives.

This news comes at the worst time for FIFA president Sepp Blatter currently in the middle of a presidential election he’s heavily tipped to win and handily even in light of the news of a slew of current and former FIFA executive committee members have been placed under arrest and set to be extradited to the US.

However, while this news wasn’t welcome to FIFA HQ, it was the best news football fans and insiders have had about FIFA in years as, frankly, FIFA and football itself could have done with this type of bold action ages ago.

Allegations of corruption have engulfed the sporting body for years on end with little to no action taken against the individuals involved despite the countless reports providing solid evidence of wrongdoing. How FIFA is setup and run leaves it open to graft and outright bribery as accountability is left seriously wanting. The lack of accountability is why FIFA’s executive committee can get away with secretly awarding itself a pay rise and Blatter can allegedly, according to International Businesses Times, get away with rewarding the members of the  executive committee with “$4.4 million in bonuses after FIFA’s windfall at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa”[2].

This lack of accountability persists because the most powerful figures in FIFA with the power to effect change won’t push for reform because they’re complicit in the organization’s corruptibility. FIFA’s executive committee is easily it’s most corrupt decision making body in the organization as the majority of individuals mired in the scandals in the last 15 years where either serving or former vice presidents or members of  the committee.

Just two weeks before the Swiss raid, another executive committee member was mired in scandal as former FIFA vice president and Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) president Reynald Temarii was banned for 8 years for making the truly stupid mistake of taking money from former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam (mired in scandal himself as you’ll find out later) to fight, you guessed it, a corruption case back in 2011. Corruption on top of corruption is what you find when you take a closer look at truly rotten organization that is FIFA as the body initially punished Temarii for “breaking confidentiality and loyalty rules by discussing the World Cup votes with undercover reporters from the Sunday Times”[3].

Temarii, along with a slew of  current and former FIFA executive committee members, have all fallen victim from the fall out of Russia and Qatar winning the right to host the 2018 and 2022 with many still baffled as to how Qatar won the 2022 bid but just about everybody had the same idea about why they won.

Impropriety surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process has been part of the FBI’s investigation against the nine former and current FIFA executives which has led to their headline making arrest and inevitable extradition. Their investigation centered around, you guessed it, another former FIFA executive committee member and former General Secretary of CONCACAF Chuck Blazer who was cooperating the FBI in light of his own tax beef with the feds since 2011.

Chuck Blazer, who served under Jack Warner ( one of the nine targeted by the joint US and Swiss operation)  is responsible for Warner’s initial dismissal from FIFA as he informed FIFA back in 2011 of a vote buying plot between the then CONCACAF president and former FIFA presidential candidate Mohammed bin Hammam (remember him?) to sure up votes in Caribbean[4]. Blazer’s cooperation With the FBI saw him, according to the NY Daily News, wired up in conversations with “Russian, Hungarian, Australian and American soccer officials to arrange meetings the feds wanted him to secretly record” among others[5]. Blazer has been at the center of a sprawling investigation that’s global in nature and “stretch from the Caribbean to Zurich, from Australia to Moscow to Qatar, the small Arab nation playing host to the 2022 World Cup”[6]. Given how sprawling this investigation has been, there strong suggestion that the 14 arrests are just the beginning.

FIFA, instead of seriously attempting to address the numerous accounts of corruptions surrounding the 2018 and 2022 bidding process has either done nothing to reform how decisions get made in the organization or stymied independent investigations into wrongdoing surrounding the bidding process.

The best example to illustrate just how impervious FIFA is to true accountability is how it basically killed Michael Garcia’s report regarding the 2018 and 2022 bidding process as FIFA’ ethics committee published just 40 pages of Garcia’s 430 page that cleared Russia and Qatar (and by extension FIFA itself) of all wrongdoing.

However, Garcia’s report was doomed from the start as Bonita Mersiades, a FIFA whistleblower who claimed she received threats in planning to release a book about the World Cup bidding process, rightly noted that “The whole concept of having an investigation by FIFA about FIFA by people paid by FIFA - that's not what an independent investigation is”[7].

This ridiculous state of affairs is only matched by the justifications for not publishing Garcia’s report in full with current FIFA president Sepp Blatter citing that publishing the report in full would “violate not only it's in rules and regulations but also Swiss law by making public the report in question”[8]. Blatter is well aware that this is not particularly true as his main motive is not get to the truth about the world cup bidding process but protect the organization from legal attacks as Blatter believed “every person in the report would have to give consent to publication - something that would be practically impossible”[9].

However Blatter and FIFA are going to need more than ridiculous excuses to survive the aftermath of US and Swiss operation that started with the surprising decision to go with Russia and Qatar given, according to Grantland “FIFA’s inspection team had evaluated all nine bids and rated Russia and Qatar as the riskiest of the lot”[10] . Both nations’s ability to host an event of the World Cups magnitude were questioned as Russia “presented major infrastructure problems” and Qatar, according to FIFA’s own inspection team members, blazing hot summers posed a “ potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators”[11]. The winning bids also didn’t make commercial sense as other bids from countries like England, the United States and Japan ”outperformed the winning nations in both tournament-readiness and revenue potential”[12].

Add into the pot that both countries have poor human rights records, a less than cordial stance towards the LGBT community and are both undemocratic, you get the feeling that something is amiss.

Since then, Qatar has been a rolling headache for FIFA and Blatter since the announcement of their winning bid with the press, unions and various human rights organizations shinning a damning light on the horrendous conditions suffered by migrant workers charged with bringing to life Qatar ambitions plans for World Cup 2022. FIFA has a lost a number of sponsors thanks to the tragic stories of workers dying on site, their families not being able to bury their dead and workers being denied their ability to leave as Deadspin reported that They’re (migrant workers, mostly from Nepal) generally banned from leaving the country, period, or quitting their jobs, or traveling anywhere in a FIFA-branded Kia, because they are slaves”[13].

The increasing focus on the horrible conditions of migrant workers in Qatar has also shone light on the business deals that made these horrible conditions possible with Deadspin’s Diana Moskovitz zeroing in on oil company Petrolina and it director who not only sits on the FIFA executive committee but backed Russia’s and Qatar’s winning bids. Petrolina has come up trumps since as the cyprus based company made  lucrative energy deals with both Russia and Qatar which saw their “profits (go up) by a third”[14].

The terrible conditions suffered by migrant workers in Qatar has inspired outrage from the Nepalese government (Nepal has a large number of citizens working in Qatar) who were less than pleased when the gulf country refused to give Nepal workers on World Cup construction projects special leave  who lost their relatives in a deadly earthquake a month ago. The reason given for the refusal was quite telling as Qatar stressed, according to Nepal’s labour minister, “the pressure to complete (World Cup) projects on time”[15]. What this means is, thanks to FIFA migrant workers from Nepal will have wait to say goodbye to loved ones because their bosses are feeling the pressure from on high to make further progress at their expense.

This horrible state of affairs is only possible because Nepal is neither the biggest or most powerful country in world which allows Qatar and FIFA to basically ignore the country and the needs of citizens just to keep up on schedule for the 2022 deadline which shows A level indifference and D level humanity on part of both Qatar and FIFA.     

This A level Indifference and D level Humanity was displayed by current FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke who recently paid a visit to Qatar and praised the facilities despite surely being aware that World Cup construction sites has claimed thousands of lives and if the 2022 World Cup goes ahead, is estimated to claim more lives than the September 11th attacks[16].

FIFA has been under pressure from sponsors of late after thanks to the truly miserable conditions migrant workers find themselves in building the vision Qatari officials sold FIFA on to host the 2022 world cup. Just last week long time FIFA sponsor Visa was compelled to release to encourage FIFA to "remedy" the harrowing stories regarding the poor conditions of migrant workers[17].  Sponsors almost never urge Fifa to take on issues like the treatment of migrant workers but given how bad it’s making both FIFA and its sponsors look, it was only a matter of time.

Sponsors themselves have the subject of external pressure as the guardian reported “a coalition of trade union groups and MPs coordinated by Jaimie Fuller, chairman of the sportswear company Skins, called on sponsors to take a stand against the abuse of migrant workers in the tiny Gulf state (Qatar)”[18].

Russia on the other hand, much like Brazil previously, are feeling the weight of the financial burden placed on the country. There are even questions surrounding whether Russia has the means to brook the financial cost to host the 2018 World Cup in lieu of crippling sanctions from the west. Also taking into consideration that the low oil prices has had a detrimental effect to Russia’s energy driven economy, it’s no surprise that the Russian government has announced a $71 million cut to its $13.2 billion World Cup budget[19] .

Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, has so far had no charges levied against him by the DoJ or Swiss authorizes but has received calls from far and wide to resign from his post just a day out from the organization's presidential election which he is slated to win handily. This is quite remarkable given the sitting FIFA president has been surrounded by scandal pretty much since he got the top job. Unlike any other election, you'll hear no hear no praise nor read no tracts bolstering his incumbency simply because no one, and I mean no one, is in support of his presidency outside of the large sums of money FIFA has generated and distributed to its member nations over his reign.

Blatter is comfortably the most unpopular man in the sport and yet it looks like he will get an extra four years presiding over an organization that has brought the beautiful game into disrepute. FIFA's current president will likely hear numerous calls for him to step down as his position has become untenable given the level of corruption that has proliferated under his watch which exposes Blatter to claims of either his complicity or incompetence given that so much graft has been exposed in the past but largely gone unpunished.

How such a man can endure in a position of power while being a grossly unpopular figure is testament to how the organization itself is setup and the returns FIFA have made off the World Cups sponsorship and TV deals under Blatter's reign. While FIFA is a non-profit, the organization makes money hand over fist and this gives Blatter a lot of power to buy friends in the organization to secure his power base. Because the member nation’s benefit from the fantastic return Blatter has managed under his reign, it gives member nations the incentive to, in the words of Forbes Magazine's Zach Bergson, "vote for status quo and more financial success by many delegates"

This  sorry state of affairs ensures that despite how bad the organization reeks of corruption, member of FIFA's congress have to grin and bear one shameful scandal after another as their choice to stick with the devil they know rather they angel they don't ensures the sport is set to endure more incidents that blacken the name of the sport.

It also ensures that Blatter can even gloat about his staying power as he recently referred to himself as a “mountain goat that keeps going and going and going” after his two of his rivals for the presidency dropped out of the campaign[20]. However the stamina of the mountain goal is not appreciated everybody as Argentine and all time football great Diego Maradona laid waste to the incumbent Fifa president emphasizing the damning irony of the notable lack of popular support for Blatter’s presidency yet the air of inevitability among many in the sport about his re-election as Fifa president.

Maradona attacked the incumbent president record on addressing racism in the sport and women’s football as he barbed ““Recently he pledged to follow through in addressing racism in football and promoting women in the sport. That made me laugh. My question is: ‘Sepp, what were you doing in your last four terms?’”[21]. However, Maradona last sentence regarding Blatter reign and Fifa seemed to echo associated the sentiment of just about everybody in the sport as he noted “If this is the face of international, we are in a very bad place”.

A very bad place indeed.

[1] M. Brown, 2015, More Than 10 FIFA Officials Arrested Over Corruption, Scheduled To Be Extradited To US,
[2] T. Barrabi, 2014, FIFA Secret Pay Raises: Executive Committee members had Salaries Doubled, report says,
[4] T.Thompson et al, 2014, Soccer Rat! The inside story of Chuck Blazer, ex-US soccer executive and FIFA bigwig, became a confidential informant for the FBI,
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7] Sky Sports, 2014, FIFA corruption whistleblower reveals threats over book about 2022 bidding process,
[8] Daily Record, 2014,  FIFA president Sepp Blatter rejects English FA over allegations of corruption,
[9] Ibid      
[10] B. Phillips, 2011, Corruption, Murder, and the Beautiful Game,
[11] Ibid, (quote by B.Phillips)
[12] Ibid
[13] T.Burke, 2015, FIFA Slaves Banned From Attending Relatives Funerals,
[14] D.Moskovitz, 2015, German TV program Shows Qatar Slave Conditions, More FIFA Corruption,
[15] M. Hanrahan, 2015, Nepali Minister Blast Qatar, FIFA, Over Treatment Of World Cup Migrant Workers,
[16] B. Glanville, 2015, FIFA’s den of thieves free to carry on with their corruption,
[17] O. Gibson, 2015, Visa expresses ‘grave concern’ to Fifa over migrant work in Qatar,
[18] Ibid
[19] Ibid
[20] The Guardian, 2015, Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, likens himself to a mountain goat,
[21] Ibid, ( Quote by the Guardian)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

(The Big Disrupt) CIO and BYOD: The CIO's Nightmare That Is BYOD

Like any executive in the C-suite, life isn't easy for CIO's but with the myriad of forces pushing against the CIO from BYOD (bring your own device) and shadow IT, it's quite easy to argue that being a CIO is a thankless task.

You would think in the information laden age we live in today that Chief Information Officers wouldn't be one of the most undermined and put upon player in the C-suite as employees demand BYOD programs and other business units rival the IT department in IT spending, most notably marketing.

The challenge facing CIO to provide business value to their organizations while maintain a robust IT infrastructure are made difficult by the two head dragon that is BYOD and shadow IT as While BYOD may help CIO's save their organizations millions in carrier costs, it also opens up CIO's and their organizations to security and privacy risks which can end up damaging their organizations brand and may cost CIO's their job.

CIO's can negotiate the security risk BYOD offers with smart mobile device management (MDM) and even smarter polices regarding the use of devices but despite these remedies, CIO's still find themselves having to bend to the will of the management and employees of their organizations. CIO's clearly see the advantages of BYOD such as getting companies closer to the modern business nirvana of increased speed, productivity, agility and mobility of the workforce and the organization as a whole. CIO's see this as a way to add value to the business by giving their organization an competitive advantage which, in a context where most markets are more competitive than they've ever been, would make CIO's key players in their organization if they pull it off.

However, in doing so they risk also exposing themselves to catastrophe in trying to be innovative as there is no A for effort in business especially at the corporate level. CIO's have general embraced this new demand to provide business value by their CEO’s especially those in the tech space who generally tend to be more entrepreneurial and more inclined to embrace new technologies than CIO's in other fields.

Their enthusiasm to bring business value to their organization means collaboration with other members with the C-suite but in a number of surveys CIO's are failing to strengthen relationship with their marketing counterparts which is unfortunate given their relationship with their CMO is quickly becoming one of the important in the C-suite. CIO's have been so bad at making nice with their marketing counterparts that a number of organizations have had create new positions to bridge the gap.

The further adoption of BYOD may help bridge the gap between IT and Marketing organizations as marketing  organizations are arguably the most likely to benefit from BYOD. However, to a certain extent, it doesn't matter if CIO's are for BYOD as employees in their organizations already use mobile for work and personal purposes and great deal of employees do it without IT signing off on the practice.

This practice will only get worse with device savvy millennials entering the workplace in full force sure to tip IT's hand in adopting BYOD due to the demand for employees to use their own devices. Most CIO's want to be innovative and do see the productivity gains to be had by embracing BYOD but given their core responsibility to ensure their organization's IT infrastructure is robust, the embrace of BYOD can complicate matters.

The embrace of BYOD has complicated matters for CIO's so much that it has become a major priority for them in such a short space of time. The risks BYOD along with other security concerns open up CIO's and their organizations to is why new positions such as the CTO, CSO and CISO to deal with the implementation and security of new technologies which to a certain degree undermines the relevancy of the CIO despite in most cases these executives report to them.

In sum, forward thinking CIO's are more than prepared to embrace BYOD given its potential increase productivity throughout their organizations but doing so comes at the price of handing CIO's more responsibility yet making the CIO irrelevant as CIOs' find themselves at the pointy end of sharp irony that finds CIO's becoming more irrelevant in an age that's more IT driven than ever.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

(TV) True Detective: True Detective Season 2 Teaser Trailer HBO HD

Check this great HBO teaser trailer showcasing what's to last year's smash hit series True Detective with a new cast and new story. The new series stars Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughan, and Taylor Kitsch and will return to HBO on the 21st June.

(The Big Disrupt) Facebook: Did Publishers Just Give Up Their Only Edge Over Facebook for Ad Money?

Facebook deal with major publishers that allows Facebook to host their content is at once the smartest and dumbest move publishers could make as while they could take a bite out of Facebook growing ad revenue, they lose the prized commodity of any business in the modern age, the time and attention of their consumers.

Facebook endgame is obvious as the social network clearly wants to own it's audience as it makes it money from the time and information it users spend and share on the platform and the biggest impediment to that is publishers and other content creators who take their audience out of the Facebook platform and on to their own. Facebook Instant Articles CMS (Content Management System) serves as a way to get publishers to publish content on Facebook directly which allows Facebook to host the publishers content and gain leverage on them as they become dependent on the money they'll make either selling ads on the platform around their Facebook content or allowing Facebook to sell it for them.

Publishers however aren't stupid and are fully aware of the risks of allowing Facebook to host their content directly. Publishers see their use of Facebook new CMS as a way to get their hands on the mobile ad cash Facebook has been earning and they've been largely losing out on. However, letting Facebook host their content directly for more mobile ad cash is not a great trade.

In fact,  it just might the worst trade in history of publishing as like it or not publishers are in the same business Facebook are in and with a gang of publishers signing up to use Instant Articles, it's clearly a sign that publishers have waved the white flag. Facebook are much better at attracting and holding the attention of their users than publishers ever were and the fact that Facebook are making Publishers give up their content, the only edge they have over the social network who produces none whatsoever, is a quiet omission that they can't win or even hold their ground in the battle for the consumer's time or data.

Facebook real competition is obviously Google as search and social media advertising giants square up against each other in the mobile ad space but with Instant Articles, Facebook has managed to what Google has failed miserably to accomplish, get publishers on side. It's one of the most delicious ironies of our age that two companies that produce no content have a grip over content creators in general with Google, through its ownership of YouTube, dominating the online video market and Facebook now beginning to tighten their grip over publishers.

Expect this trend to get worse as both companies continue to flex their muscles and both content creators and publishers find themselves having to grin and bear the consequences both companies slowly asserting themselves as media owners. 

In sum, the decision of publisher to trade their content for better mobile ad performance may prove to be a poor long term decision but in truth, Publisher are just a pawn in Facebook larger chess game with Google in the battle over the time and attention of consumers on the web.  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

(Sport) Boxing: Why Mayweather v Pacquiao Was the Best and Worst Thing to Happen to Boxing

While the history books will record that Manny Pacquiao lost his " fight of the century" bout with  Floyd "Money" Mayweather, the real loser of the disappointing bout might be the sport itself.

Part of the allure of the fight was that many saw Pacquiao posing the toughest challenge in Mayweather's career and had waited five long years for the fight to be made. Both fighter had their legacies on the line but Mayweather especially given that the fact that Mayweather's legacy by many boxing aficionados (including Mayweather himself) is solely defined by his 48-0 unbeaten record.

What we all witnessed last Saturday may not have been the greatest spectacle by anybody's standard but it was a 12 round masterclass in how to win a fight by controlling the pace and distance. In most combat sports, it's damn near impossible to win a bout without either controlling the pace and distance of a fight and Mayweather, a master at gaining a stranglehold of both, knows this better than anybody else. It's why almost all his fights get hyped to the hilt then end up being borefests as he quickly gains control of both the pace and distance then the fight is over as a spectacle.

It's also why people hate the pants off the pound for pound champ outside his brash public persona, insensitive public statements, and his extensive but shamefully under-reported history of battering women. Boxing fans across the board will praise his ability as a boxer but are left bemused when he calls himself "TBE" (shorthand for "the best ever") and lose their minds when he has the nerve to commit the blasphemous act of saying he's greater than Muhammad Ali then criticize the great man's legacy in the same breath.

All the hate Mayweather attracts and encourages is why he's the sports main draw and why many thought Mayweather would win the bout but still hoped that Pacquiao would beat him up badly enough to make him retire. Mayweather would have had to retire if he did lose because he would no longer be the sports biggest draw and his main legacy (his unbeaten record) would be in tatters.

But, in truth, it would have been difficult for Pacquiao to win the fight. Mayweather is  the bigger man, has a larger reach and is just as fast as the Filipino pugilist which means Pacquiao would have push the pace of the fight and close the distance in a sport where simply, in the words of the legendary boxing coach Emanuel Stewart, " the good big ones usually beat the good little ones".

The moment I knew the fight was over as a spectacle was when Mayweather landed a straight right in the first round, squared up in the center of the ring with Pacquiao and nothing happened. From there, Mayweather took control of the pace and distance of the fight by being elusive, throwing a ton of spoiler and stiff jabs, and landing the occasional straight right.

The only times Pacquiao found success was when Mayweather gave up the distance but was still in control of the pace of fight as Mayweather simply circled off the ropes after Manny unloaded then preceded to take over the pace and distance of the fight like nothing happened.

Because the fight was so boring to watch except among the few real boxing fans who appreciate what the sweet science is all about, boxing might have just suffered the biggest poke in the eye it's since Mike Tyson got peckish and took a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear. Never has boxing had so many people pay attention to sport expecting to see Hagler/Hearns only to get a less entertaining 12 round rehash of Duran/Lennard II.

Casual fans of the sport took to twitter to register their disgust towards the fight after they felt they were cheated out of their hard earned money to watch a 36 minute boxing exhibition.  The reaction to the fight gotten nasty as Pacuiao, HBO and Showtime are now subject to a lawsuit from angry fans less than pleased with bout they saw and incensed with the revelation that Manny went into the ring with a tear in his shoulder.

While Mayweather v Pacquiao wasn't the greatest fight to watch, I've seen worse fights and if the world was paying attention to those they probably wouldn't want to watch boxing, ever. In sum, we all expected the fight of the century but what we got was a fight the century will quickly forget which is not only a stain on the fighters involved but a black eye on boxing in general.


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