It makes you weep, doesn’t it, when you see a major global corporation or brand make a complete mess of its reputation and image?
As a PR person with many years of experience, I’ve seen my fair share of PR blunders and looked at such incidents with incredulity but few acts of incompetence, insensitivity and just plain “wrongness” can match football’s world governing body FIFA’s decision to ban England and Scotland from wearing the poppy at next week’s World Cup qualifier at Wembley.
Just how wrong can anyone get? Has FIFA heard of the two World Wars that killed millions? What does its attempt to ban something so respectful say about its attitude to the many thousands of footballers that must also have paid the ultimate price. Is it saying their deaths don’t matter either? And what about that Christmas Day of 1914 when soldiers of the British and German armies, put down their rifles, left their trenches, and celebrated with each other over a game of football? Would FIFA have tried to ban that, too?
As UK Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament, FIFA should put its own house in order, rather than make themselves look even more out of touch with the sport it is supposed to run. The decision from the Football Associations of England and Scotland to defy this absurd ruling is absolutely the right one and I hope any FIFA representative at Wembley hangs their head in shame when they see our players wearing their poppies with pride.
In the meantime, perhaps the FIFA PR department should get the old Crisis Management action plan out again. It’s had plenty of use lately.