FIFA and the Social Contract

Football soccer goal netThe Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, as it is more commonly referred to, is the global governing body for the sport of soccer. It is meant to run much like the representative governments of countries all over the world, with a congress that assembles to make decisions. The Federation is also similar to other governments in the social contracts it makes with its “subjects,” in this case, teams all over the world. Clubs agree to play by FIFA’s  rules in order to participate in competitions like the World Cup and Champions League. In the case of FIFA, the social contract is quite Hobbesian. The Federations answers to no one but itself, and this has caused a fair bit of controversy over the years.

FIFA has long been regarded as a corrupt organization. According to Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-Rigging and Ticket Scandalsthere were widespread allegations of election-rigging in FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s 2008 reelection. The book also cited various demands for payment under the table in contract negotiations. In FIFA’s social contract, the worldwide members give the congress the right to make decisions and look out for their best interests, but the organization has repeatedly breached this contract.

Most recently, there is an ongoing scandal over the bid process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. FIFA officials were found to have accepted bribes from officials in Russia and Qatar, the two countries selected to host the next two world cups. While many are calling for FIFA President Sepp Blatter to be replaced, this is unlikely due to the way to organization is structured. As it would be under Hobbes’ contract, the sovereign, in this case Mr. Blatter, cannot be overthrown by his subjects. A recent New York Times article highlighted the apparent corrupt culture in the worlds largest governing body in sports, describing internal investigations made by FIFA. It cited “erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions” in FIFA’s internal investigations that further tarnish the administration’s reputation. According to the article, the Federation itself paid for the investigations, and “FIFA declared that FIFA had done nothing wrong.”

This lack of accountability was cited by critics of Hobbes’ social contract long before the creation of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. Jean-Jaques Rousseau and John Locke are the most well known opponents of Thomas Hobbes’ contract, and their ideas are  commonly seen as the basic for modern democracy. Rousseau criticized Hobbes’ version of the social contract because he believed that the rich and powerful should not be the only ones involved in the governing of society. Locke believed that while people gave up some rights in a social contract, they still retained certain basic rights. This is the problem that has plagued FIFA for years. The rich and powerful members of the organization continue to influence a cycle of corruption that only angers and hurts the teams and players who are beneath them. The senior members and congress make decisions to benefit themselves because there are not rules in this social contract preventing them from doing so.

In a so-called democratic process, corruption and other governmental issues should be eliminated through the collective effort of the people. According to Rousseau, it is the general will of the people that should be the source of the law. In a modern democracy, it is the responsibility of the elected representatives to fulfill the general will of the people. This is not occurring in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. They are operating under a corrupt version of Hobbesian philosophy, and it will take a replacement of the sovereign by the will of the people to change the current course of the sport worldwide.

One thought on “FIFA and the Social Contract

  1. With a monarchal system such as FIFA, I would agree with you that FIFA seems like it has transformed into an example of Hobbes’ social that has failed. Hobbes encourages a system such as FIFA’s, but when corruption within the monarchy ensues, the system seems to shutdown and fail completely. I fear that is what is happening to FIFA.


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