THE BLOG
01/06/2015 07:05 BST | Updated 31/05/2016 06:59 BST

I Haven't Drunk Coke in Six Months and Counting - Thanks to Football!

Now, you might think that the protection of my teeth would be a good reason to stop drinking drinks like Coke, but since the state of my teeth mean they're probably a lost cause anyway, let me tell you why football is the actual reason...

Well, not football itself, but the worldwide governing body of the game, FIFA.

When the host of the 2018 World Cup was announced as Russia, it caused a stir, but what caused even more of a stir was the unusual decision to announce the host of the 2022 tournament at the same time. When that host was announced as Qatar, a small country with no football heritage and summer temperatures that would make a football tournament ridiculous, red flags of suspicion were immediately raised.

England, who have unbelievably not hosted the tournament for nearly 50 years, put in a good bid, which most neutral observers felt would have been a logical choice, and since the British media has long campaigned about corruption within FIFA, with fingers pointed at President Sepp Blatter, that campaign went up a notch after the 2018/22 announcements.

Blatter initially blamed sour grapes from England, but after pressure he grudgingly ordered an inquiry, but then refused to publish the report. Instead, the self-run FIFA ethics committee published a summary which the man who produced the report, Michael Garcia, said was so inaccurate and unreflective of what he found, he resigned.

Classic FIFA, and classic Sepp Blatter. He's been carrying on like that for years, propped up by some of the smaller nations in world football, who have benefited from his generosity.

When I say *his* generosity, I mean FIFA's, and even that's guesswork, because trying to get a clear picture concerning FIFA's finances, in or out, is like herding cats.

In 2014, when the furore around the Garcia report was at its' height, I remember reading an article saying the only way things would change would be for fans to lean on the main sponsors.

If that worked, they might withdraw, and since it's their money that drives the whole circus, it might all collapse around Blatter like a house of cards.

So, I wrote to Coke, telling them that despite buying it for decades, I would not buy any more, and that until the report was published in full, or Blatter stepped down as President, their sponsorship was sending my money directly to their competitor Pepsi.

I got the standard reply they were using at the time, which was this:

"Anything that detracts from the mission and ideals of the World Cup is a concern to us.

The current conflicting perspectives regarding the investigation are disappointing. Our expectation is that this will be resolved quickly in a transparent and efficient manner."

Hmm. The glaring problem there is that transparent and efficient resolving of issues by FIFA, or lack thereof, is precisely the problem!

2 days before the 2015 FIFA Presidential election, dawn raids from the FBI and Swiss prosecutors saw 14 men arrested, concerning corruption, bribes, and who knows what else. Another big scandal for FIFA, probably their biggest (which is saying something), involving staggering amounts of money.

Blatter has not been arrested, it must be said and, guess what, was re-elected to serve a 5th term, despite FIFA's reputation being at rock bottom.

Exasperation at his refusal to acknowledge he has any part in any of it, let alone resigning, has put the British media in full attack mode, and they are focusing heavily on the angle of...leaning on the sponsors.

The media is heavily pushing the idea that continued association with FIFA is becoming toxic to the brands. Of course by doing that, they are trying to bed in that perception with the people who really drive football, the fans who hand over the money at the bottom of the pile.

Funnily enough, I heard one commentator say "no-one is suggesting that people would stop drinking Coke, for example, while they remain as a headline FIFA sponsor."

Oh yeah?

I'm suggesting it! I said exactly that to Coke themselves. I can feel a little reminder to them in the pipeline, telling them that my 6 month (and counting) withdrawal of custom was no doubt being welcomed at Pepsi, maybe asking them how they felt their association with FIFA was working out?

At the moment, miniscule pin pricks like myself do not outweigh the massive benefits companies like Coke get from sponsoring the World Cup. If more of us join in though, if the trickle becomes a stream, then a river, then a flood, then the benefits might start to be outweighed by the negatives.

Combine that with a pincer movement of European teams threatening to boycott the World Cup, and Blatter's supporters might fade away quicker than you can shout "FBI!"

In the meantime, my teeth and waistline continue to sigh with relief, and whenever I see an advert for Coke, I simply smile a little smile. As I sip on a glass of Pepsi.

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