If crisis mismanagement was an Olympic sport, world soccer boss Sepp Blatter would be up there on the gold medal dais.
Every sports person knows consistency is the key to success, and Blatter is a champion when it comes to misunderstanding and misrepresenting a potential crisis.
The FIFA President’s most recent award-winning performance came this week when commenting on the fact that two top British soccer players were being investigated for racial insults during Premier League games. “During a match you may say something to something to somebody who is not exactly looking like you, but at the end of the day it is forgotten,” Blatter opined in a TV interview. “Sometimes in the heat of the moment, things are said and done of the field of play. But that does not mean that, in general there is racism on the field of play.” Players involved in such racist clashes, he suggested, should settle things with a handshake.
Faced with the predictable backlash – from players, officials and the media – Blatter insisted he had been misunderstood. But his performance is a stark reminder of how organizational reputation can be threatened by gaffe-prone executives.
In May of this year Blatter was the man who brought scorn upon FIFA by his failure to even recognise their reputational crisis triggered by bribery and corruption in the process to award hosting of the 2018 World.
With his organization’s reputation in tatters, Blatter told a press conference: “Crisis? What is a crisis? We are not in a crisis. We are only in some difficulties and these difficulties will be solved inside our family.”
And of course this is the same man who, in 2004, chose to comment on a sex and lies scandal which rocked the British Football Association. Stepping boldly into the mire of infidelity and deceit which ended the careers of FA CEO Mark Palios and Communications Manager Colin Gibson, Blatter unhelpfully concluded: “It is not an incident, it is something good. It is human relations. Football is also human relations. It is better than violence or stripping shirts on the field or tackling from behind.”
Blatter is fond of saying that FIFA’s goal is to make the world a better place through football. He has certainly enriched the world of crisis management – by providing a gold medal-winning example of how not to do it.