Football’s governing body, FIFA, is looking to expand its global footprint beyond its closed headquarters next to a zoo on the outskirts of Zurich, studying the feasibility of shifting its financial engine, commercial operations. Which generates billions of dollars in revenue for the organization, for the United States.
The likely move will be determined by technical factors, including the suitability of locations on both coasts, ease of obtaining work visas for foreign staff members and tax regulations, according to an official who spoke publicly with direct knowledge of the discussions. Deny because a final determination had yet to be made. Incorporated operations represent a significant portion of FIFA’s business: they oversee the sale of FIFA’s sponsorship and broadcast rights, which represent some of the most lucrative assets in global sports.
Since the election of Gianni Infantino as president in 2016, FIFA has been considering expanding its footprint beyond its glass-and-steel headquarters on the east side of Zurich. It has already opened an office in Paris, where most of its staff involved in development and relationships with its 211 member unions will eventually be based.
Officials hope that moving its commercial business to a major US city will help FIFA attract and retain key staff members, amid concerns that its current home is proving to be a barrier to attracting talent. . Local regulations require FIFA to appoint a certain number of Swiss staff members.
There is also FIFA’s interest in separating itself from Zurich – in part – an attempt to repair its reputation and loosen its ties with its troubled recent past in Switzerland, the country that has been its home since 1932.
Several members of FIFA’s executive board were arrested in Zurich in 2015 as part of a detailed investigation by the United States Department of Justice that uncovered corrupt practices dating back at least two decades. That scandal led to the downfall of FIFA’s longtime president, Sepp Blatter, and most of the organization’s top leadership.
A move for FIFA to the United States immediately following the arrest would have been unthinkable, as it would have placed the organisation’s executives, operations and financial accounts within the reach of US officials. (Some former FIFA officials, possibly for fear of arrest, Has not set foot in North America scandal since.) But living in Switzerland now comes with its own issues.
Infantino, who replaced Blatter as FIFA president a year after the raid, has faced a year-long investigation into his ties with former Switzerland Attorney General Michael Löber. Lauber, who was forced out after revelations that he held private meetings with Infantino, was responsible for the Swiss investigation resulting from a 2015 US indictment. Some allegations have been found in those inquiries.
The failure of the Swiss authorities to act in the corruption case has disappointed elements of FIFA’s current leadership, who have privately expressed disbelief at the inaction given the amount of evidence obtained in the search of FIFA’s headquarters. At the same time, the investigation into Infantino caused a furious reaction, with FIFA’s assistant secretary general branding it “a bit weird and inappropriate“
FIFA’s attempt to move parts of its operations away from Zurich is seen by insiders as necessary measures for an organization that wants to move on from the ways it has worked for several decades. For example, the decision to relocate to Paris has given officials from its development and member union departments easier access to Africa, a region that FIFA has largely embraced. full control after a separate corruption scandal Including the president of the regional governing body on the continent.
“Our aim to make football truly global is also what FIFA needs to have a more balanced and global organizational structure,” Infantino said when the Paris office opened in June.
FIFA was founded in Paris in 1904, but moved to Zurich in 1932 because of Switzerland’s location in the center of Europe, its political neutrality and “.it could be reached by train,” according to a timeline on FIFA’s website. In 2007, FIFA moved to its current headquarters building on a hill overlooking Zurich. The building, known as fifa house, cost over $200 million and consists of several underground levels, including a marble floor, a soundproofed room where its Governing Council meetings are held.
FIFA officials remain undecided about how much of a presence the organization will maintain in Switzerland, which – thanks to light-touch government oversight and a friendly tax regime – has developed into the location of choice for international sports federations. Lausanne, the home of the International Olympic Committee, actively recruits such organizations and considers itself “Game of Silicon Valley“
The push for such significant changes is a symbol of FIFA under Infantino. a Swiss citizen, he has tried to make big changes The way both FIFA and soccer work with mixed results. They have expanded the World Cup, an event responsible for more than 90 percent of FIFA’s revenue, from the current 32-nation format to 48 teams. But their efforts to force through other innovations and increase FIFA’s influence in club football have often failed, and their current push to move the World Cup from a quadrennial event to a stage every two years in European football. Threatens a major fight with the authorities and even the International Olympic Committee.
Moving to the United States would give FIFA an opportunity to build its business operations in a country whose officials feel it has yet to embrace football at a level matched by the sport’s place in other parts of the world. . The timing will allow FIFA to have more control over preparations for the 2026 World Cup, the first edition of the expanded tournament; That tournament will be co-hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.
But due to its close proximity to Wall Street and major US companies, some of FIFA’s top executives argue, finding partners to fund new events and invest in women’s football’s growing popularity, while increasing revenues significantly. Will give a chance.
As well as exploiting the potential business opportunities available in the world’s largest economy, being based in the United States will give FIFA another opportunity to show that it has moved on from its scandal-ridden past.
FIFA has tried to repair its relationship with the US government in recent years, and officials are in regular contact with the Justice Department, which continues to investigate corruption in world football. Some of the fruits of those improved relations were made clear last month when FIFA and its two regional associations most implicated in a 2015 scandal were cleared of recovering more than $200 million from companies and individuals. Was. The Justice Department said the money would have to be administered through FIFA.