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The football museum that is FIFA’s latest failure

21 November 2016

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Oh dear. When FIFA opened a museum dedicated to its own glory in Zurich back in February, expectations were sky high. Having spent many millions on the new museum’s construction, the scandal-ridden governing body of the beautiful game expected a healthy footfall of 250,000 visitors per annum. ‘We want to bring people closer to football and make the museum a vibrant meeting place for all football and sports fans. We have no doubt that, with the World Football Museum, we have created another must-see for tourists in the city of Zurich’, said director Stefan Jost at the time of opening.

Alas, according to worldsoccer.com, the organisation has scored something of an own goal with its lofty predictions. The museum has been forced to scale back its estimated visitor numbers dramatically for its first operating year to 132,000, wracking up losses of something in the region of £24.5 million. Just to make matters worse, Jost has reportedly parted company with the institution, citing ‘contrasting views on future plans’.

By contrast, Funchal’s CR7 Museum – an institution devoted solely to the life and ‘works’ of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo – claims to have lured in around 200,000 punters per year. Though the Rake suspects this may have more than a little to do with CR7’s fetching (if not wholly lifelike) waxwork of the shy and retiring Portugal captain, one can’t help but feel a little empathy for the beleaguered football association.

FIFA, however, is well inured to such disappointments. When the body spent some $29 million on United Passions, a glorified advert – sorry, feature film – about its origins, the project went down in history for wracking up the worst performing opening weekend in US cinema history, with a 0 per cent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes to boot. Tim Roth, the actor improbably cast as erstwhile FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter, admitted that he had agreed to a role that would ‘have [his] father turning in his grave’, before opining that ‘the hole FIFA has dug for itself is so deep, they’ll never get out of it.’ Thus, in the grand scheme of FIFA vanity projects, the museum could even be considered something of a success.

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