Monthly Archives: May 2011

FIFArce…

FIFA, the body that runs world football is a disgrace. Full of corrupt autodidacts leading with a grandiosity that is beyond the pale. Awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup finals was more of a joke than a shock, and now emails are emerging that show the finals were bought.

But what can be done?

Individual football associations have already indicated that they feel powerless to go beyond the investigation process FIFA has already undertaken. And to suggest that a single FA, like England, would pull out of FIFA alone is absurd.

Yet, there does not seem to be enough momentum to see a large bloc of FIFA members withdraw their support for the organisation. Perhaps there are many football associations around the world that are quite happy with the shady goings-on in Switzerland.

But what does FIFA really provide to the world of football anyway? They are supposed to be the governing body of the sport and yet corruption is the only example they set. Their main cash-cow is the World Cup final – held next in Brazil in 2014.

So what can the punter on the street do to enforce the reform of FIFA? Well, if they wait for the national associations to join together then nothing will happen. Why not strike where it will hurt FIFA most, their pocket?

If Facebook can bring down the dictators of the Middle East then surely it can sweep a broom through the dodgy back-handers in Switzerland?

We need a central location online where all FIFA sponsors, and details of their sponsorship type and values are listed and publicised in an easy to share way. Then as many genuine fans around the world need to join together in boycotting those companies.

Adidas, Coca Cola, Hyundai, Kia, Emirates, Sony, Visa… these are the main partner firms, but many more come on board to sponsor each major tournament. I like some of these firms, but if the financial support for FIFA falls off the edge of a cliff – because they choose to no longer be associated – then perhaps we may finally see a genuine platform for reform?
Brazil v Sweden at Emirates Stadium

The Met get their men, at last…

To say that justice was not done back in 1993 when black teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered in London is an understatement. It is to the credit of the Metropolitan police – written off as institutionally racist during the investigation into this case – that they have now charged two suspects with the murder.

It’s eighteen years since the crime and Stephen Lawrence was just 18 when he died. The suspects in the 1996 trial were obviously guilty as far as the general public were concerned – their criminal families were even caught trying to nobble the jury – but the judge could not sentence them without reasonable doubt.

In short, the scientific evidence at that time was just not good enough for a safe conviction even if every copper in London knew in their bones that they had caught the right guys. So it’s pleasing to hear that the boffins have improved their analysis of the evidence and found compelling new evidence that should be heard in court – leading to the arrest of these two suspects, one of whom has already stood trial for the murder back in the 90s.

Because the double jeopardy rules have changed – it used to be impossible to be tried again for a crime you were previously acquitted of – they are now going to have to stand trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of Lawrence, with the CPS presenting fresh new evidence even after all this time. These sweeping changes to the criminal justice system in the UK were made largely because of the Stephen Lawrence case.

This reopened case is important, not least because it may finally achieve justice for the Lawrence family, but also because the reputation of the police service in London was dragged through the mud after this case collapsed. The police were accused of being racist Neanderthals, not much better than the murderers, and certainly not bothered about the loss of a black kid from a rough neighbourhood.

It took a long time for anyone to acknowledge that Stephen Lawrence was a talented kid with a good school record and no criminal record and he was working hard to become an architect. The Royal Institute of British Architects now holds an annual prize in his name and memory.

Justice won’t bring back a murdered individual, but in this case it can remove the bitterness the family – and nation – feels that these thugs got away with it for so long. It also goes some way towards rehabilitating the reputation of the Metropolitan police, who have never quite got beyond the ‘Gene Hunt’ school of policing in the opinion of most middle-class Londoners.

I wont forget this case myself because I was at the 1998 inquiry in person as the London representative of Amnesty International. As the five accused men left the inquiry, a sea of hundreds of – mostly black – Londoners closed in and pelted them. Being close to the front of the crowd, half the missiles were raining down on me and the people nearby!

At one point, I looked up and a steel ladder was flying overhead… Some of the accused men actually traded punches with the crowd, with the police desperately trying to prevent a full-scale riot in Elephant and Castle.

Let’s hope that this time, the Met get their men. It’s been a long time coming.

The Old Bailey

Lunatic House

The British immigration office in Croydon, just outside London, is called Lunar House, but anyone who has had to deal with them knows the place better as Lunatic House.

But even the machinations of the British Home Office look slick and efficient when compared to the federal police, who handle immigration in Brazil.

I have spent hours at the police office in Lapa, São Paulo, arranging my permanent resident visa. It’s annoying, but it is just one of those things that has to be done.

Given the amount of time and effort that I have expended so far on them, I was excited to find that my visa application had been approved. On the website it said I just need to arrive at the police office within 30 days to collect my visa.

I turned up there today with my passport, having paid the processing fee in advance, and expected to be collecting the visa. I was told that I should have booked an appointment in advance for collection. I showed them the website on my phone – there was nowhere stating that I had to book an appointment, just a request to come within 30 days of approval.

They said I should have called to check.

When I suggested that I was there, I had my papers ready, why can’t we just process it now, they said it was impossible without the booking form, and if I had a problem I would have to complain to the people in Brasilia.

Sometimes this bureaucracy is positively Kafkaesque. I know that immigration requires a fair amount of bureaucracy, but I just wasted hours today because they don’t put the required information on their website – and then they cast me aside when I complain, suggesting that it was my own fault for not calling them to check.

Thankfully my visa is approved. I just need to collect it. I’ll book an appointment and fetch it soon, but I made sure that I got a receipt for my taxi today. When I return to the police office, I am going to file a complaint and ask them to cover my expenses… let’s see how far that goes.

IMAG5061

Time is money

A short note to the business leaders of Brazil… If someone spends an hour or more travelling to see you, then you make them wait in reception for more than one hour before informing them that you are running late and might not be able to do the meeting after all then you have just cost the organisation of your visitor at least half a day of time.

It does not imply status to keep people waiting and it’s not culturally acceptable just because “this is Brazil”… It demonstrates that you can’t organise your diary – and if you can’t organise your diary then God help the thousands of people in your organisation looking to you for inspiration.

Perhaps some Brazilian executives might want to take a lead from Narayana Murthy in India – a man with billions in the bank yet he has never cancelled a meeting on anyone once it has been committed to his diary.

The Brewmaster

Communism finished in West Bengal

It was always an anachronism in India. West Bengal ruled by a communist party for the past thirty-four years and always trying to bend and flex the limits of communist ideology so they might embrace the real world. Now the communist rule is over.

I remember being in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) working on behalf of the West Bengal government a few years ago. They asked me to give a keynote speech at a conference and then do some consulting work focused on how to develop the local hi-tech services economy – IT and IT-enabled services.

I rose to speak to the conference knowing that the IT minister of West Bengal was going to speak immediately after me, but he had not briefed me on his speech and I had not been asked to brief him on mine.

My main thrust was that West Bengal should play to its strengths; the vibrant higher education community, the strong links between academia and industry, the sheer scale of educated young people…

I showed them that they have a unique proposition that is focused on highly trained resource. I explained that they should not try to ape other Indian states, such as Karnataka (where hi-tech Bangalore is located), and focus on offering low-cost labour into the growing call centre industry as it would not be a long-term opportunity for the region.

The minister stood up and the first image he presented described how much cheaper the labour is in West Bengal, compared to Karnataka, and how great this would be for call centres. The entire conference hall fell about laughing at him.

Embarrassing for me, and probably more so for him as it showed he was not really in tune with the business community and had not even taken the time to check what the speaker ahead of him was going to say.

But as I worked with the government there, one thing in particular intrigued me. The IT sector was declared a ‘special’ industry. The local government wanted to attract foreign investors so they decided that all the normal labour legislation would not apply to this one industry.

In West Bengal, strikes have always been common because workers often flex their muscles and refuse to work if they have a grievance with the management. In the IT sector, strikes were banned.

The minister smiled at me when he told me about this and declared that foreign investors have nothing to fear from the communist government, because of the ban on industrial action in the sectors they were trying to boost.

So I asked how the IT workers would get to work when the bus drivers were on strike, or how the computers would work when the power company workers were on strike, or how the workers could eat if the restaurant workers were on strike?

He couldn’t answer. He only gave some weasel words about IT staff sleeping in the office to avoid transport strikes, or companies bringing in food and using diesel generators to keep the lights on. None of it was a real solution and if I was a genuine foreign investor, I wouldn’t have been impressed because the government was trying to remain communist in spirit, yet also doing anything they could to attract foreign money to the region.

So the communists of West Bengal were never really communist in the sense of Plato’s Republic, they just liked the colour red. And Che Guevara T-shirts. West Bengal has joined the rest of us in the real world at last.

Jorasanko Mansion - Kolkata

Car insurance in Brazil

I just bought a new car, though It’s not exactly a “new” car. It’s a 1961 VW Beetle, or Fusca as they are called in Brazil.

Now, I’m trying to insure myself and it seems that most insurance companies won’t insure a car that is older than 20 years, so I’d appreciate some advice from my Brazilian friends.

How can I get third-party insurance, so if I crash into another car, or a person, then my insurance company will pay them for their damage or injuries?

This is different to comprehensive insurance, where my car is covered for theft or damage – in addition to injury to others. And surely, for a third-party policy it does not matter how old the car is?

My understanding is that I don’t need any insurance at all to drive in Brazil, which is very different to London where you must be insured by law. However, even if I don’t need to insure my car, how can I still get a policy that pays if I cause injury or damage with my car? At least I know that if I cause an accident, the other people will get their damages paid.

I’m a bit confused at the moment, so if someone can help explain, I’d appreciate it.

1961 VW Beetle for sale

Be Seven, the hidden gem of Sumaré

For weeks, if not months, me and my wife have contemplated visiting a really low-key looking bar in Sumaré. It’s somewhere we often see from the bus – as we live locally.

Last night, we were heading home and decided to stop by just to see what it’s like and we got a huge surprise.

As you can see, the exterior is very understated. No neon. No big signs. Not even the name of the bar anywhere. I only realised there was a bar because I could see people drinking beer as I passed by on the bus.

But, go inside and it’s a really nice place with photos of musicians all over the walls, a pool table, and an amazing view from the back of the bar over the whole of São Paulo – even the lamp shades were made from empty bottles of Jack Daniels and a chess board was already laid with chess pieces made of shot glasses filled with Tequila. And it’s not just that it looks nice, the background music veered from Morrissey to The Cure to The Rolling Stones. It’s hard not to enjoy that kind of background muzak.

The cocktails are super tasty and the range is drinks is incredible. We spoke to the owner of the bar and asked her why there is no sign or anything to attract attention to the place and she just said that the people who go there all like it and tell their friends – she has no need to sell it more.

I’ll be back.
Sumaré, São Paulo, at dawn