By Jesse Fink
I've flown Emirates. I've been bumped up to first class (a life highlight) on Emirates. It's a fantastic airline with a well-earned reputation for comfort, service, safety and all-round excellence. As airlines go, it's up there with, if not, the best of the best.
Emirates is also a tremendous supporter of sporting events and sporting teams around the world. There are very few countries where the Emirates logo has not found a home on the back of a shirt, on the turf of a football pitch or even above the entrance to a stadium. It's a company as important to the wellbeing and function of international sport as just about any corporation you care to name.
Which is why it's worth asking why, after laudably striking a note of discord about FIFA's operations in November last year and flagging the possibility of not renewing its eight-year, almost $200 million sponsorship of the embattled organisation, Emirates has now given FIFA a green light.
In an interview with British football journalist Andrew Warshaw, Emirates senior vice-president Boutros Boutros said: "We have now done a market research test and so far it would seem there is no negative effect on our brand or people's perception of it, whatever FIFA has gone through.
"They were not as clear as they are now. We have to give them a chance to finish what they are doing. To me they are starting to get better publicity."
This has met with justifiable ire from commentators such as Professor Roger Pielke, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who writes an excellent blog about the sociological dimensions of sport called The Least Thing: "In other words, whatever FIFA is doing it is not adversely affecting the Emirates brand, so the company has no need to look into the reform effort any further. The brand-first approach taken by Emirates is of course not unique and provides a fine illustration why corporate sponsors will not be the ones to lead reform of sports governance, in FIFA or anywhere else."
It's an excellent point. And a sad one when fully contemplated. There were widespread hopes, including those held personally by this writer, that sponsors would lead the charge for demanding FIFA clean up it act and not accept anything less than transparency and accountability.
After all, it's we, the fans, who buy their services and products. If companies listened to fans, they'd know they weren't happy with FIFA for a host of reasons.
So what has FIFA really done to become "clear" in the interim period to warrant such an endorsement?
A cast of grey-haired goodfellas still sit on FIFA's executive committee, resistant to outsiders, caps on age limits/terms of office and independent, thorough scrutiny of their past affairs going back decades, when the really sleazy stuff was going on.
Blatter himself, his name tarnished by the ISL scandal, offered this defence last July: "You can't judge the past on the basis of today's standards. Otherwise it would end up with moral justice. I can't have known about an offence that wasn't even one."
Allegations of corruption during the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups have not been adequately investigated and it appears will never be.
Mohamed Bin Hammam has been cast into the wilderness yet even after bribery charges against him weren't able to stick, invalidating the election of Blatter, there has been no new ballot. That's a scenario in the realm of fantasy.
What we have mostly seen with the creation of new committees and commissions and the splitting of old ones is a reshuffling of the deck. But they're still the same old cards.
As Transparency International's Sylvia Schenk recently said at the Council of Europe meeting in Paris into FIFA's governance: "One quarter of the whole executive committee - six of 24 - have been accused or suspended in corruption cases, or retired shortly before they would have been accused of corruption cases... if the past is not dealt with then FIFA will never come to peace.
"You have to start with new people at the top to show that there will really be change. In FIFA that hasn't happened."
So Professor Pielke is right. Sponsors have a duty to ask more of FIFA than just to determine whether their brand has been adversely affected through market research.
It's about supporting what's right.