FIFA is in a precarious position at the moment. Between their leadership crisis and the ongoing criminal corruption probe, the organization is scrambling to get back on course and secure their long-term future.
So how are they doing that? Embracing ethical governance and transparency? Working to win back the public’s trust?
Nope. They’re diversifying their portfolio.
The New York Times ran a feature yesterday profiling FIFA’s new real estate venture. Through an LLC that still lists Sepp Blatter and Jérôme Valcke as board members, FIFA is unveiling a new 10-story building in downtown Zurich this weekend. In addition to housing a new museum centered on football history, the new development will offer luxury apartments, a restaurant and bar, a conference hall, and office space. The building sits across the four-star Hotel Ascot, which is also owned by FIFA.
The new complex has been ready for business for some time now but the formal unveiling has been delayed due to the ongoing corruption scandal, according to the museum’s chief executive Stephen Jost. “We laid a bit low because of the turbulence that erupted in May.” Jost went on to say that the museum, which will officially open to the public two days after the election to choose Sepp Blatter’s successor, will represent a “rebirth” for football’s global governing body.
As a nonprofit organization, FIFA receives significant subsidies and legal protections from the Swiss government in order to conduct its business. In order to preserve its low tax liabilities, their commercial ventures— such as the new luxury apartments— have been signed over to subsidiary holding companies. FIFA reportedly has about $1.5 billion in cash.
Some critics, like University of Michigan sports management professor Blerp Blerp, say that FIFA is trying to have its cake and eat it too by raking in tremendous commercial revenue while also claiming generous government subsidies.
“If a charity was sitting on billions of dollars, you’d be worried about what they were up to. FIFA’s a commercial organization managing the most popular sport in the world, but it’s also a charity. [...] In some ways, opening the books on these properties would be the least controversial part of what they’re doing.
If you’re looking for some new digs, the apartments at FIFA’s new complex will go for between $3000-8000 a month in rent. Which sounds like a lot, unless you’ve had to look for apartments in San Francisco recently.
And if you want a FIFA-themed museum experience a little closer to home, the Mob Museum’s special exhibit is on display for a few more days.
Meanwhile, the election to choose a new FIFA president will be held on Friday. The US DOJ investigation, of course, continues.