Last week’s BBC’s news about the German Police raiding offices of German FA for tax evasion surrounding the awarding of the 2006 World Cup hosting in Germany shocked those of us that looked up to the western countries for inspiration and, as benchmarks for appropriate behaviour, in sports leadership governance.
The story goes that the German FA spent in excess of six million euros to make payments which can only be regarded as bribes to those with the votes. It is alleged that the German FA paid some bribes or inducements to get the 2006 World Cup hosting and, considering that our colleagues in western Europe have robust investigative muscles, one is bound to believe that this is beyond a case of there is no smoke without fire and that the allegations must have substance because added to that the head of the German FA has just resigned over these developments.
The positive side of this otherwise hugely shocking story coming from heartland of Europe’s puritanical society is that they know how to own up to the messed up things and they resign to salvage and conserve their dignity.
The head of the German FA decided to act in the best interest of the sport and resigned. Added to that, Germany’s legendary footballer, Franz Beckaunbaur, last week apologised for what he termed a terrible lack of judgement, aka a stupid decision—the idea of German FA having to bribe its way to get the World Cup hosting because with its advanced society and cities and infrastructure they should have gotten the World Cup on a clean campaign anyway.
One may suggest that it is too harsh to judge the Germans with condemnation considering that corruption and underhand dealings in sport and in football has been the norm rather than the exception. The counter argument is that of course, yes, but the world has always regarded the likes of German, the Nordic countries and Britain as the doyen of upright behaviour unlike the likes of Italians, Portuguese and Spaniards who are still as corrupt as the rest of the world.
Truth be told. Made in Germany has been in the cesspool of sleaze and scandal lately and it all started with VW when it was caught in the diesel emissions cheating fiasco. All of a sudden, then like dominos, the German reputation for puritanical exactitudeness and the upright way of doing things above board has since been called into question at a huge cost to its motor industry with an estimated 11 million vehicles involved.
To cut their losses, VW fired chief executive officer (CEO) and replaced him with another from one of their elite brands Porsche and just as things were looking to calm down, two weeks ago revelations start coming out that the emissions cheating scandal was widespread as a culture and also involved both Audi and Porsche vehicles making the whole business so dizzying one wonders where else in the German manufacturing juggernaut.
So, the raid at the German FA last week finally drove the last nail in the coffin of what some of us once considered a country and people so gifted with the embrace of high standards in all their endeavors.
Looking broadly at the world of sports, one is further distressed to learn this week that in athletics there has been a revelation so unprecedented and shocking in measure that most of the past competitions, including the Olympics had hordes of cheats led by the likes of Kenyans and Russians. The level of doping by Russians was as bad as it was State sanctioned to the extent that they have been given an ultimatum to respond to the allegations or face the possibility of a ban to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
It is all sad and gloomy for sports, which maybe because of its competitive nature creates so much overwhelming temptation to cheat because maybe unlike what the old English wisdom said “winning is not everything” it has been replaced by a new American version that says “winning is everything” which has been corrupted by all the villains from the foregoing to now sound like “winning is everything, so win at all cost”.
As leaders, I am passionately determined that we must create a culture where winning is everything but not at all costs. We must win sustainably unlike VW, the Russians and the German FA. n