Adidas and Sports Corruption

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Even as the every-fourth-year World Cup football spectacular is set to kick off
in Brazil later this week, there has been a wave of increasing concern about the event’s scheduled host for 2022, the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar. This has largely been prompted by the eminent British newspaper The Sunday Times, which has somehow gotten its hands on a treasure-trove of internal e-mails and documents relating to what appears to be the concerted effort spearheaded by the Qatari businessman (and former FIFA vice-president) Mohamed Bin Hammam to buy Qatar the 2022 World Cup outright via the judicious parcelling-out of up to $5 million.

Taking a page from the work of Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald with the NSA documents, The Sunday Times is drawing out its revelations over a period of weeks, rather than dumping all of what it has learned on the public at once. Nonetheless, even what is has revealed so far has prompted some notable reactions. One of the latest was that of one of FIFA’s main World Cup sponsors, SONY, expressing its concern over the Qatar revelations. Then SONY was recently followed in that by the famous German sportswear firm Adidas. (That last link is to a Sunday Times piece – remarkable since usually they are inaccessible behind a paywall.)

But Adidas itself knows quite a bit about corruption in sports – as is apparent from the German business newspaper Handelsblatt with an article it republished from Die Zeit a little less than two weeks ago:

Adidas
That tweet reads “Adidas: The inventor of modern sports corruption,” with a question mark. But it is not really a question; in the article itself that title appears without any question-mark, and writer Oliver Fritsch’s purpose within the seven pages over which the piece is divided is to show how that is the case. As he writes:

“For decades the company has influenced sports-politics decisions such as marketing contracts, tournament expenses and personnel. The company’s methods are controversial. And that just not as of yesterday.”

You can tell that Adidas is a big player at least in the German sporting goods market from the fact that it is the official supplier to both the German National Football Association (and therefore to the national team, which first goes into action in Brazil against Portugal next Monday) and to German football power-house Bayern München. And you can similarly tell that Horst Dassler, son of the company’s founder Adi Dassler, was some kind of evil genius from the fact that he gets his very own chapter in the exposé-book recently written by Thomas Kistner, Fifa Mafia (unfortunately available only in German). (more…)

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. . . And That’s Not All, Folks!

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Sure, it’s the cheap, easy, cynical view to adopt that the bail-out/splintering of the French/Belgian/Luxembourgish bank Dexia, worked out over the weekend, is just going to be the first of many such episodes. Then again, it’s also the de rigueur statement for any finance minister involved to make under such circumstances – “No, I don’t think so, certainly not French banks” – such as that which French finance minister François Baroin uttered when asked by reporters if there would be any others.

Of course there will be others. For heaven’s sake, there were already two others (i.e. European bank nationalizations) happening even as Dexia hogged the headlines the past few days. (Details here, in English: namely a Greek bank – surprise! – that was nationalized after getting in trouble over money-laundering, and a Danish bank that made foolish real estate loans.) And now we have further explicit confirmation of this from Kleis Jager at the Dutch newspaper Trouw: French prepare in secret for more misery.

Topped by an unfortunate photo of current (unelected) Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme and France’s PM François Fillon with sly, conspiratorial smiles on their faces, Jager’s piece tells of how, even before Dexia, the French government realized that it needed to get ready to save at least “two or three” big banks – preferably by forcing them to sell themselves to outsiders with big money.

(Just as Luxembourg did with its part of Dexia, selling it to the Qataris, for example. You’ve got to admire the Luxemburgers, though – on the very Sunday (9 October) that Dexia was collapsing, finance ministers were feverishly meeting, and Qataris were presumably being wined-and-dined, they were also holding their national elections!)

Wait, you want names? No problem: according to Trouw, the French had in mind specifically BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole as the banks where they would need to intervene. No Dexia on that list! But all of these have done good business through the years – “good” so far – providing loaned money to not only Greece, but also Spain and Italy.

To be fair, this is not Jager’s scoop, but rather one he credits to the French paper Journal du Dimanche. BNP Paribas and Société Générale immediately issued denials once the latter had published its report. But I refer you again to Finance Minister François Baroin’s comments cited above.

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