Twenty-Five Years On: The World Cup Carnival Fiasco

One of the more significant achievements of Joao Havelange’s time in charge of FIFA was to turn the organisation into a financial powerhouse, through merchandising of the World Cup name. The 1982 tournament saw the introduction of corporate sponsorship and the beginning of its conversion into the biggest sporting event on the planet. In the midst of all of this commercialism came one – at the time, relatively minor – piece of licensing that would provide a fascinating insight into how not to handle a crisis. Video gaming had started to become fashionable during the late 1970s and by the middle of the following decade it had become big business, making millionaires of some and ruining others. It was, perhaps, inevitable that the World Cup would be picked up on as a tournament that would fit in with the rush to make money within this particular industry, and FIFA licensed the sale of the official rights for a game for the tournament in 1986. The company that won the rights to produce the game was a Birmingham-based company called US Gold, who had been formed three years earlier with the intention of porting versions of popular games to the ZX Spectrum from other machines such as the Commodore 64, but had in the intervening years found itself a niche in the market converting arcade games and big name licenses...

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