Peter Young
22 September 2004
England Football Online
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Comment: Killing the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs

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FIFA and the F.A. Excel at Alienating Fans

From time to time we have been—and no doubt will be—critical of two of the organisations that govern football, FIFA and the Football Association

We think it fair to disclose that we have our own personal reasons to be none too happy with these two organisations.

FIFA has blacklisted us.  We tried last year to register as a media organisation so that we could gain access to FIFA’s media services and, in turn, improve our service to our readers.  FIFA’s response not only did not give us the requested access but demanded that we remove all FIFA logos or emblems from our website.  FIFA’s rules provided that the media were entitled to use these emblems in conjunction with their coverage.  We pointed out to FIFA that our website was as much a part of the media as any newspaper or television company and therefore entitled to use the logos in its coverage of the game.  We never heard back from FIFA.

Soon afterwards we tried to contact FIFA’s website by e-mail to point out an error appearing on one of its pages.  Our message, addressed to those in charge of website content, was returned with the notation:  “Permanent Failure: 553 - Sorry, your email address has been blacklisted.”  We then tried the four other listed e-mail addresses on the FIFA site—those for general information, media inquiries, comment on past competitions and upcoming matches and marketing inquiries—asking why we had been blacklisted.  We received the same permanent failure-blacklist message in response to all our messages save the one we sent to marketing inquiries.  We received no response from marketing inquiries and shortly afterwards found we were blacklisted there, too.

We regard the whole thing as an example of FIFA’s pettiness and why the people who run it are unfit to have the power they wield.  Our website is non-commercial; it is not exploiting the FIFA emblems for profit of any kind, but uses them solely for decorative and informational purposes.  Nor is there any danger that anyone would confuse our site with FIFA’s official site.  It is obvious our site is merely an independent fan site if only because we say it is on our website’s front page and on the disclaimer which appears at the bottom of every page on the website.

A few years ago the Football Association sent us by e-mail a heavy-handed threat demanding that we remove the three-lions emblem from our website.  We told the F.A. we would not remove the emblem, that it did not belong to the F.A., and that, in any event, even if the F.A. had a valid claim to trademark protection, we were not violating it because, among other things, we were not using the emblem for commercial purposes.  We have evidence that the F.A. has since had its trademark enforcement agents send us false requests for and inquiries regarding match tickets and other football merchandise in unavailing efforts to find out whether our website is engaged in any kind of commercial venture.   They are wasting their time as well as ours; our website is a labour of love, a concept that seems to be beyond the ken of the money-grubbers who run the F.A.

The readers of this website and other fan sites spend a tremendous amount of money on football.  Our website, with its non-commercial use of these emblems, increases the organisational visibility of FIFA and the F.A., as well as the popularity of the England team and football in general, and it is a very short-sighted view of things that prompted the demands FIFA and the F.A. made to us to remove the emblems.

The one thing these two organisations excel at is alienating fans.  In their quest to squeeze out every last penny they can from the fans, they eventually will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.