Future of the Sports Industry Benefits from FIFA Scandal


In the wake of the FIFA scandal that has been plastering the headlines for the past few months, it’s almost impossible not to think about the future of the sports industry. In May 2015, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that she had conducted a long term investigation into FIFA, which had lead to the uncovering of over $150 million in bribes given to FIFA officials. The bribes uncovered were not only for the bids for the 2018 and 2022 world cup but go back to more than ten years ago.

The United States has indicted 14 people on corruption charges in relation to the FIFA bribes. Nine of those arrested were top FIFA officials. Several of the accused were arrested in Switzerland, near FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich. The prosecutors for this case used the accused’s reliance on American banks and American locations to conduct meetings as the basis for charging them in federal court.

The business of sports is a multinational multi-billion dollar industry. These recent arrests have set a new standard not only for the future of FIFA but for the future of the sports industry. New sports management leaders will have to be more transparent and better educated on business ethics and the business of the sports industry.

George Washington University‘s School of Business in Washington, D.C. offers students the opportunity to study sports management while completing the MBA. According to the GWU website, the MBA concentration in sports management, “guides candidates seeking a successful career in the business of sports through the ins and outs of this increasingly complex and lucrative industry.”

Students who complete this MBA concentration focus on sports management, sports marketing and sports law. Students also complete electives ranging from sports media and communications to sport and event facility management to issues in global sport governance.

George Washington University is not the only school that has seen the offered students sports management opportunities. The MIT Sloan School of Business holds the annual Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. The conference aims to provide a forum for sports industry professionals and students to discuss the increasing role of analytics in the global sports industry.

During the conference, attendants have the opportunity to hear from sports industry business leaders during panel discussions as well as present research and participate in the First Pitch MBA Sports Business Case Competition. The First Pitch gives future sports business leaders the opportunity to analyze and address one of the conference sponsors’ key business challenges. Finalists present at the conference to executives from the organization facing the issue.

Business ethics is another important topic that has risen from the FIFA scandal. In the future, FIFA will be put under the microscope to ensure that the federation adheres to responsible and transparent business decisions. Business ethics include much more than turning down bribes. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “In concept, business ethics is the applied ethics discipline that addresses the moral features of commercial activity. Programs of legal compliance, empirical studies into the moral beliefs and attitudes of business people, a panoply of best-practices claims, arguments for (or against) mandatory worker participation in management and attempts at applying traditional ethical theories, theories of justice, or theories of the state to firms or to the functional areas of business,” all fall under the idea of business ethics.

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania offers MBA students the opportunity to complete courses within the Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department at Penn. Students complete courses that will help them to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to become successful business leaders. According to Wharton, “Familiarity with the law enables one to identify potential legal problems, seek appropriate counsel before making key business decisions and work more effectively with lawyers.”

Along with the arrests of the FIFA officials, FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter resigned on June 2, in light of the situation. London Business School professor, Julian Birkinshaw made the comment about Baltter’s resignation to City A.M., a leading business and finance news outlet, that “We know that power corrupts, but it doesn’t corrupt instantly. Over the years, leaders who lack integrity gradually take control of the various levers of power, they surround themselves with acolytes, and they reduce the strength of the mechanisms designed to hold them in check.”

Being a solid and reliable business leader is something that FIFA will look for in their next president. It is also something that future sports management professionals should look to be. Harvard Business School offers three different executive education programs for leadership. These programs include,  Owner/President Management (OPM) program, the Advanced Management Program (AMP), the General Management Program (GMP) and the Program for Leadership Development (PLD). These programs all focus on creating outstanding business leaders who can improve corporate performance and drive competitive advantage.


Although the future success of FIFA is still to be determined and the issues of bribery and other scandals still need to be addressed and eliminated from the organization, future leaders in the sports management industry can look to the mistakes of the current and former leaders, like FIFA, to help grow to be more transparent, ethical and educated sports industry business leaders.

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About the Author

Erin Purcell

Staff Writer, covering MetroMBA's news beat for New York, Philadelphia, and Boston.

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