SportsFIFA needs a backbone, and here's why

FIFA needs a backbone, and here’s why

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Organisations are all too happy to say the right things, but quickly crumble when money gets involved. FIFA is just the latest example of companies being prepared to say the right things but not DO the right things.

  • Sparta Prague midfielder Jakub Jankto came out as gay earlier this week, making him the first active senior international in men’s football to do so
  • FIFA tweeted a message of support to Jankto, which backfired as people scolded FIFA for allowing Qatar to host the last World Cup, in which LGBT rights are non-existent and actually criminalised
  • Sparked debate as to whether or not organisations actually care about certain causes/plights, or if they are simply virtue-signalling to protect profit

Hypocrisy at its worst

If there was ever an example of an organisation caught in hypocrisy, this is it. This is a demonstration of companies not genuinely caring about social issues, but simply pretending to care to protect their revenue streams.

To be clear, FIFA is loyal to whoever pays them the most. The World Cup held in Qatar last year is a testament to this, as FIFA went out of its way to respect Qatar’s anti-LGBT laws and culture.

FIFA threatened to sanction individual players and national teams if they wore the pro-LGBT ‘One Love’ armband. They upheld a ban on spectators wearing clothing with rainbow flags entering stadiums. They supported Qatar’s decision to deport a pitch invader holding a rainbow flag.

This was all in December 2022. Just two months later in February 2023, they ‘support’ Jankto coming out as gay. This is blatant hypocrisy, obviously, but deeper questions lie at the core of this conundrum.

Does FIFA genuinely care about LGBT rights and other social issues? Why does FIFA say one thing and then do another?

FIFA supports Jankto coming out despite hosting the last World Cup in an anti-LGBT country

To answer the former, probably not. To answer the latter, it comes down to one thing; money. Al Jazeera reported that FIFA made a record $7.5 billion from the Qatar edition of the World Cup, $1 billion more than the previous edition in Russia.

FIFA, like other businesses, are loyal to whoever pays them the most.

They’re happy to support social issues when there’s no money at stake – such as in cases like Jakub’s – but that quickly disappears when there’s money to be made and lost.

It shows that morals, ethics and social responsibility are for sale. It demonstrates that FIFA does not have the strength of character to have a non-negotiable, core set of values that cannot be bought.

For a lot of football fans, that’s simply not good enough.

What now?

Jankto has been generally supported by the global football community.

England Lionesses captain and Arsenal midfielder Leah Williamson says the team ‘wants to stand in solidarity’ with Jankto by continuing to wear the One Love armband during matches leading up to the Women’s World Cup this year.

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes, amongst other footballers, showed his support for Jankto online.

Aaron Fenton-Hewitt
Aaron Fenton-Hewitt
Aaron Fenton-Hewitt is an aspiring journalist and political commentator. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Film from London Metropolitan University, and a Master's in Writing for Creative and Professional Practice from Middlesex University. He wishes to continue his academic career, with a PhD in Politics or related field. Aaron is also a freelance photographer, an avid foodie and an Arsenal supporter.

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