Tag Archives: soccer

Brazil: I’ll do it tomorrow if that’s OK?

Business Daily on the BBC World Service today was focused on the possible decision by FIFA to cancel the World Cup games in Curitiba because the stadium is not ready. The BBC is being cautious and waiting for the actual announcement from FIFA, but ESPN has already started reporting that FIFA has taken this decision and Curitiba is officially out of the World Cup.

Of course this would be a disaster for Curitiba. It’s a fantastic city that is clean, safe, and has buses that people actually use. A complete contrast from the edginess of São Paulo or the favelas dotted all over Rio. It’s the last place that you might expect to fail when Brazil has also been building new stadiums in places like Manaus and Cuiabá.

But what I found irksome when listening to the BBC coverage was the vox pops they used when characterising Brazil. There was a university professor who talked about the culture in Brazil that everything can be done tomorrow. There was the miserable commuter who spends hours travelling to and from work each day – on a good day. There was the small business owner who said how terribly difficult it is to do business in Brazil.

The coverage wasn’t balanced or fair. I have complained a fair few times about the challenges of living in Brazil, notably things like the bureaucracy associated with buying an insurance policy or registering a car. Simple transactions that should really be easier, but on balance I actually like it here. It sounds irritating to hear the BBC doing a cultural hatchet job on how all Brazilians are lazy, feckless, and would rather not do anything today because there is always tomorrow.

I run a business in Brazil. If a contractor delivers anything late then I don’t pay them. If they let me down more than once I will never work with them again. If they don’t deliver a quality service then I negotiate a new price. I haven’t had very many problems at all with this idea that nothing ever gets delivered on time – I had far more trouble when I ran a business back in the UK.

Small businesses in Brazil benefit from a simple tax structure. You just pay tax on the revenue coming into your company. No need for complex offsets or depreciation, just pay a fixed percentage on your revenue. Imagine if Starbucks was doing that in the UK, rather than transferring profit to Switzerland therefore reducing the local profit to nothing and therefore paying little or no corporation tax.

And small business owners get paid on time in Brazil. When I send an invoice to a client I tell my bank that I have sent it and who it has gone to AND when they are going to pay. If the company doesn’t pay then my bank will chase the company – like my own debt collection service. Imagine if small companies in the UK could rely on their bank to help them this way? Why don’t they do it?

There is a very vibrant start-up culture in Brazil and loads of technological innovation taking place in the big corporates and the tiny micro-businesses. State governments are handing out cash to entrepreneurs all over the country without demanding equity in return because they are actively trying to stimulate the start-up culture and the benefits that one big success can bring to a region.

My own wife is a part of this scene. She is travelling all over Brazil meeting traditional artisans and joining them together into a collective called Gift Brazil, so they can harness the power of social media tools like Facebook to promote their traditional art and culture. Can you imagine the market a traditional artist in the middle of the Amazon might usually have for their work? Just the odd tourist wandering past perhaps… now they can be seen by the entire world.

I know that balance doesn’t make for a great story. It’s easier to get clicks on a story if you tell a miserable story, rather than try spreading the good news, but in the year of the FIFA World Cup Brazil is getting showered in bad news. Everything is late, the people don’t want it, it will all be a disaster…

Well there are some great interesting projects taking place in Brazil that are redefining how people work, people are demanding and starting to get more political transparency, and some of us are looking forward to the World Cup – even though I don’t have a single ticket for any of the matches!

Toucan eye

 

Photo by Doug Wheller licensed under Creative Commons

Chelsea FC: Fighting Racism in Football

Everyone I’ve spoken to who has had any links to Chelsea Football Club has told me that John Terry is a nasty piece of work – a thoroughly unpleasant man – but nobody goes around wildly accusing England players of racism without evidence and proof.

Now Terry is in court in London defending himself against a racially aggravated public order offence – in short he has to defend himself against calling QPR player Anton Ferdinand ‘a f****** black c***’ during a game last October.

Terry says he is angry, he can’t even believe the accusation, yet lip-readers watching video of the incident almost vouch that these were his words – much of the dispute in court is over the short periods of time when Terry’s mouth is not visible. In court Terry has defended himself by saying that his words were down to confusion – Terry was verifying to Ferdinand (by repeating the words) that he had not just called Ferdinand that – seemingly verifying what the lip-readers have claimed was said.

Terry was being wound up by Ferdinand – but did it warrant a racist response?

Let’s take a look at the vision statement of Chelsea FC:

Chelsea’s vision statement that underpins everything we do is that by 2014 we strive to be recognised internationally as the world’s number one football club.

This applies to all off the field activities, as well as on the field, and therefore applies to fighting racism and discrimination and promoting integration and social inclusion.

Chelsea is committed to providing each employee, potential employee, customer and service users equality of opportunity in all the things we do.  We will ensure that equality practices are integral to every process and create an inclusive and positive environment for all. 

Interesting? Fighting racism underpins all the things we do. Unless you happen to be one of the most visible employees of Chelsea FC… Look further down a few lines in the Chelsea Strategic Overview and you will find this:

Chelsea Football Club practices a zero tolerance policy towards racism at Stamford Bridge and takes a leading role in all the major anti racist campaigns such as Kick Racism Out of Football, Show Racism the Red Card and all UEFA backed Europe wide campaigns.

Terry may yet be declared innocent by the court, but if he is found guilty of a racially aggravated offence in a court of law then will Chelsea ask him to leave the club? Probably not – he might even be championed as an anti-racism ambassador.

A less visible employee of Chelsea FC would have been fired immediately for uttering a similar statement in the office, but players appear to operate using a different set of values.So do all the fine anti-racist sentiments such as ‘kick it out’ and ‘equal opportunities’ in the Chelsea vision statement mean anything?

Not really; they mean nothing at all and may as well be deleted from the club website.

Chelsea v Roma

Photo by Ryu Voelkel licensed under Creative Commons

For FIFA’s sake…

I quite enjoyed the BBC Panorama documentary last night detailing corruption and fraud within football’s international governing body, FIFA. FIFA behaved consistently as if they do not need to respond to any of the fraud allegations, but we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that should have been used for the development of the game, all ending up in the back pocket of FIFA board members. The BBC presented a number of new facts that proved illicit payments to at least three FIFA board members.

However, the argument in the UK media is that the BBC is unpatriotic to expose these people just a few days before the vote for which nation will host the 2018 World Cup. We are relying on these same people to vote for the England bid just as the BBC accuses them of fraud.

But the BBC is not the voice of the State. I would love to see England get the World Cup in 2018, but if the BBC affects the impression of England and a bunch of FIFA crooks don’t vote for our country because they don’t like to see their dirty laundry aired in public then doesn’t it demonstrate some much greater British values, not least about the freedom of the press?

Would anyone really want to see a situation where the BBC had evidence detailing how many bribes these FIFA officials have taken, but they kept quiet to ensure those same people voted for England?

Whether we win or lose this bid to host the 2018 World Cup, it’s time for the English FA to join forces with other national football associations and to demand that FIFA is entirely reformed… it should be an open, transparent, not-for-profit association developing football across the world, not a shady cabal of villains all earning millions by having their votes bought.

Boot on the other foot

Mahindra Satyam at the FIFA World Cup

Have you been watching the FIFA World Cup? Perhaps you have given up now that England is out of the tournament. Or you might still be holding a torch for the South American giants such as Argentina or Brazil? Whatever your choice of team, it’s impossible to ignore the advertising at the stadiums. This time, the boards around every stadium are entirely electronic. They change about 2 or 3 times a minute, serving up huge exposure for the brands that sponsor these places. Companies such as Adidas, Brahma, and Coca Cola have had prominent advertising popping up. But what’s that Mahindra Satyam one?

Well, of course it’s the Indian technology firm Mahindra Satyam – the technology people that deliver the systems used at the world cup. No doubt they get the advertising as part of their arrangement to deliver technology services to FIFA. But is it actually worth anything to a company like Mahindra Satyam to even bother putting their brand on boards by a football match?

Mahindra Satyam is in the B2B business. They don’t sell a consumer product like Coca Cola. They only have a relatively small number of possible customers around the world – company chiefs needing help with IT or hi-tech services. I admit, some of those company bosses may be watching the football and may be impressed to see the company logo there. But is that measurable? And should a B2B even be focused on that kind of warm fluffy brand perception marketing?

Perhaps it’s a more oblique strategy to raise the profile of the firm, tainted by the Satyam scandal only just over a year ago – an accounting fraud often termed ‘India’s Enron’. The brand was damaged substantially and perhaps this blanket bombing of the world cup is to emphasise the strength of the Mahindra Satyam brand – as opposed to the bad-taste-in-the-mouth Satyam one.

So perhaps the perception building is more about trying to get good people working for them rather than trying to win new business. Coders sitting in bunkers in India must be puffed out with pride when they see their company logo all over the big world cup games – with TCS, Infosys, and Wipro nowhere in sight.

But even if FIFA is offering the ad space for free as a part of the IT contract, will it get Mahindra some new business? None of the technology or marketing executives I speak to think that this is the way to go… if someone from Mahindra Satyam wants to contact me, I’d be happy to talk to you about this strategy directly.
Press mob Kiran Karnik

World Cup: It’s a bit of fun

The Football Association in England don’t really prioritise the national team. The Premier League has the money and the clout and any spare time the players have is focused on their club. The 2010 World Cup squad was a team of players who only play in England – none of the English players in the present national side play outside England.

That can be viewed as a testament to the power of the Premier League, but it also serves to emphasise the relative unimportance of the national side. So when are we going to treat the major football competitions as just a bit of fun, rather than going in with the assumption we have a real chance of winning?

England were third favourite to win at the start of the competition. But that’s not a realistic reflection of the team, it’s how much money was bet on the various teams… the betting on England ends up creating a perception that they are a front-runner, yet they consistently underperform.

It’s time to treat the major tournaments as a carnival where progress is a bonus, rather than analysing every last second of games England usually lose.
England legends at Hill & Knowlton

Ten German Bombers

It’s funny to see stories like this in the Observer today, claiming that England football fans are realising that the Germans are similar to them… There will be no fan segregation at the England v Germany game in South Africa today and the fans are enjoying the warm up together.

Why is it we are surprised that there are shared cultural references between England and Germany? The Saxons settled in England long before the Nazi party of the 20th century came to prominence. And this is possibly the main issue. Nazi Germany is one of the most commonly taught historic eras in English schools. It’s about war. It’s got some villains. The teachers have a lot of materials to draw on. But it also means that children get turfed out of school with an impression of Germany still shaped by their history classes.

So the jokes about German bombers continue – until some of the fans actually meet Germans and realise that their own English culture,religion, moral values, and love of beer is Anglo-Saxon.

The Germany world cup four years ago gave a reason for a lot of English people to visit Germany – a lot of people who might think nothing of visiting Spain, but would never have considered Germany as a nice enough place to visit. And I’m sure there were a lot of surprised people who enjoyed the hospitality of the locals.

I don’t know how the German tourist office can improve their image – I have seen ads featuring Michael Ballack – but I think if they really want to change this lingering nod to history by the English then they need to lobby for a change to the GCSE curriculum.
Deutscher Bundestag - German Parliament

Ghana goes all the way against the USA!

Ghana has a population of 24m. The USA has 310m.

Life expectancy in Ghana is 60 years. In the USA it is 78 years.

Literacy in Ghana is around 57%. In the USA it is 99%.

The entire GDP of Ghana is estimated at around $36 billion. The USA GDP is estimated at $14.2 trillion.

But Ghana can still beat the USA 2-1 in a world cup football match!!

Are we going to see an African team going all the way?
Boot on the other foot