Thursday, September 12, 2013

Run the world game? FIFA can’t even run an online prediction game!

As a fan of the world game I decided to join the FIFA Club and play FIFA’s online prediction game. One reason is that I enjoy putting my football prediction skills to the test. Another is that the winner gets tickets to the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil.

The game consists of FIFA posting a series of matches from around the world on their website, and players predicting the outcome of these games. The winner is the player who gets the highest streak of correct matches, so the main skill is in knowing which games not to predict.

The game has been running for just over a year and every month there have been administrative issues that have adversely affected the playing experience, as well as in some instances being blatantly unfair.

A common issue has been FIFA’s failure to process games in a timely manner. There have been numerous occasions where I have made a prediction, the game has finished, and hours later (sometimes over 24 hours later, as was the case on May 28, 2013 for Sligo Rovers versus Dundalk) the game has still not been processed, making it impossible for me to make another prediction. Meanwhile, games played later have been processed allowing other players to make additional predictions and increase their streak. This most commonly (though not exclusively) occurs when scheduled games are postponed, and it is a source of real frustration.

Another issue has been FIFA’s failure to add to the list of games on their website. This occurred twice in the last three months. In September 2013 it involved a new twist whereby the website was listing games from June 2012 (Olympic matches on the whole) which were obviously unavailable for making predictions because they were played over a year ago. At least this issue affected all players equally.

A much more serious error occurred on April 25th, 2013. The website listed a match from Singapore as Young Lions versus Hougang. But the game that was actually played was Young Lions versus Home United, a completely different team. I used the online help form on the Rules & Help section of the website to contact the game organisers to point out this discrepancy, quoting the relevant rule, which states:

“CANCELLED MATCHES: If a match, the result of which you tried to predict, does not take place for any reason, then your streak will NOT be reset. The fixture will simply be marked as "cancelled” and your score will remain the same.”

It made no difference. Anyone who picked Hougang to win was credited with a correct prediction, despite the fact that they didn’t even play on that day, while anyone who picked Young Lions had their streak reset to zero.

May 16th, 2013, brought another fiasco. The listed game was Kilmarnock versus Hibernian from the Scottish Premier League, but seconds before the game kicked off, the website showed it had been cancelled, and players were allowed to make new predictions, which I did. Imagine my surprise the next day when the game was suddenly included in the list of games that had been played and counted.

Again I contacted the game organisers, pointing out that having made a mistake and cancelling the game, thus allowing players to make a new prediction, they couldn’t go back the next day and suddenly include the game. It's like wrongly disallowing a goal in the first half, playing another ten minutes, and then announcing at half-time that the goal counts!

On July 26, 2013, the website listed a match from the Gambrinus Liga as Dukla Prague versus Teplice. I picked Dukla to win at home. The match that was actually played was Znojmo versus Teplice. It ended 0-0, resetting my streak to zero. I contacted the game organisers and let them know. Of course I heard nothing back, and again nothing was done to rectify the mistake.

The other really annoying issue with the game is that sometimes the webpages can take over two minutes to load, and when they do they quite often open with an error message.

So all in all, FIFA’s running of this game has been awful. There have been numerous errors in administering the game, and few have been rectified, despite them being brought to the attention of the game administrators. The customer service has been terrible for a game that is presumably aimed at attracting fans to the website and engendering goodwill. 

Only once have I received a response to issues I brought to FIFA’s attention and that was to say they had a computer problem at the start of July which is why no games were available for making predictions.

It would be fair to say that the game suffers from a lack of fairness, transparency and accountability, the exact same problems we find at the top of FIFA. It can probably be assumed that FIFA employees take their cue from the top, and the culture of the entire organization from top to bottom reflects this.

No wonder FIFA can’t make a decent fist of running the world game. They can’t even run an online prediction game.