“Daddy, why does your company put money into that rotten FIFA?” It’s a fair question one of the kids of the six men shown here might well ask. The rest of the world is starting to ask too! Their dads run some of the most powerful corporations on the planet. Almost certainly, each would want their children, let alone their major stakeholders, to see them as personally ethical—having no truck with corruption or anything sleazy. Who are they? They’re all CE0s: Herbert Hainer of Adidas, Tim Clark of Emirates, Mong Koo Chung of Hyundai, Muhtar Kent of Coca-Cola, Kazuo Hirai of Sony Corporation, and Charles W. Scharf, of Visa Inc. When these men go home to their families none would relish their kids thinking of them as unethical by virtue of inaction. They could patiently explain to their puzzled kids how hard it is to make sure there’s no dreadful weak link in their company’s complex supply chain, so they end up supporting child slavery. Or they might point out their popular brand has countless subsidiaries around the world. Making sure all of them act in an ethical or responsible way can be a huge headache. After all, that big bank HSBC for example, which is hardly in penury, thought it was well-organised with a sound compliance system. Yet one day recently, it woke up to learn its branch in Mexico was merrily laundering money for gangsters. These six CEOs all run big corporations which are FIFA’s major sponsors. FIFA is the world football body and a decidedly dodgy outfit. World opinion seems clear. FIFA is moribund, unethical and corrupt. In calling for nations now to take action, the Financial Times for instance, rightly also points to FIFA’s big sponsors as complicit in the failure to sort out the governing body of a sport watched by around 10% of the world’s population. 
CEOs set the tone What’s clearly happening is these six CEOs are taking a decidedly hands-off approach to FIFA. This may not withstand public scrutiny much longer. Isn’t it strange such clearly intelligent and probably well-meaning individuals stay relatively silent about the Fifa organisation which their money supports?This is a good example of how one of the Five Pillars of Ethical Business Leadership could actually help these CEOs. The second pillar is RELEVANCE–by asking “how does this situation affect my business?” the six CEOs would certainly make the connection between the bad odour attached to Fifa and their own need to run a responsible business. Such big corporations usually have smart heads of communication, countless PR experts, social media analysts and external advisers on brand image and reputation. Yet none of their substantial support teams seem to have convinced these leaders about the relevance of this issue to their company and the brand, nor to say something of substance about FIFA and where their money is going. This is not ethical leadership by any criteria. Leadership means you lead–not wait for others to tell you what is right or wrong.  Blow the whistle on Fifa, please, FT June 4th 2014
NOTE: Since this post appeared here, three of the above named companies have come out and warned that corruption allegations are damaging the game’s global reputation. Sony, Visa and Adidas demanded the bribery claims be taken seriously. What do have the rest of the six have to say? Watch this space!