Berlin Olympic Stadium

FIFA corruption

Leigh Turner
Leigh Turner

FIFA corruption: world football is plagued by poor administration.  You could fix much of it overnight if you had the political will.  

A history of dodgy decisions

December 2010: FIFA President Sepp Blatter announces Russia has won the competition to host the 2018 “FIFA World Cup”.  Qatar will host the 2022 competition.

You can watch the announcement, should you so wish, on this 21-minute long presentation.  The actual announcements are at minutes 9.10 and 15.50.

Berlin Olympic Stadium

Berlin Olympic stadium – venue for 2006 World Cup final

27 May 2015: the US department of Justice indicts nine FIFA officials and five others for “racketeering, conspiracy and corruption“.  The US Attorney General says: “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States”.

21 December 2015: Sepp Blatter is banned for eight years from all football related activity by FIFA’s own ethics committee, along with fellow top football administrator Michel Platini.  Both deny any wrongdoing.

Some time in the future: the wheels of justice set in train by the US may, possibly, deliver more information including whether the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was the result of, or influenced by, corruption.

Let’s be clear.  I don’t know whether the outcome of those bids was influenced by corruption.  It may be that the 22 men (sic) responsible for those decisions were persuaded entirely by the excellence and logic of the bids and that all 24 members of FIFA’s executive committee are innocent of all corruption.  They include, so far as I can see (update me if I’m wrong):

  • four members indicted on corruption charges in the 2015 FIFA corruption case;
  • two members, Blatter and Platini, banned in December 2015 by FIFA;
  • two members suspended from voting on the 2018 and 2022 bids because of earlier accusations of selling votes;
  • one member who has already pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

How to fix FIFA corruption: the executive committee

On my rough count, out of 24 members of the FIFA Executive Committee, 15 do not fall into any of the above categories, and one of those (former “Senior Vice President” of FIFA, Julio Grondona) is dead.

But I’ve blogged before about how dangerous it can be to leap to conclusions based on information online (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).  So let’s leave the question of innocence or guilt to the courts, and focus on two more important and more easily answered questions:

  • is the present method of deciding which country or countries should host the FIFA World Cup, ie a vote by FIFA’s Executive Committee, fair, transparent and credible?
  • Is it possible to devise a fairer and more transparent method?

The answer to the first question is clearly – well, I’ll leave that to you.

Is the system working?

But consider: does the system command the respect of the public in member nations?  Is it transparent?  Does it make sense to have 24 unaccountable individuals (or 22) entrusted with making a decision whose outcome will potentially make many other people multi-millionaires?  Could such a system expose even saints of probity to impossible pressures and conflicts of interest?

How to fix FIFA corruption

So what’s the alternative?

It’s simple.

Pick a name out of a hat.

Sure, you would need rules.  For example you could:

  • have a rotation system between continents, as adopted and then abandoned by FIFA itself;
  • insist that countries wishing to put their names into the hat must demonstrate their ability to organise a football tournament.  It wouldn’t be difficult to draw up a published list of objective criteria – FIFA and UEFA do this routinely.  This would give you a shortlist in the continent whose turn it was;
  • have a tried, trusted and transparent form of “picking the names out of a hat”.  The world’s lotteries, which rely on the belief of punters in the fairness of the system, have perfected this art.

A system like this would be fair.  It would remove allegations of wrong-doing.  It would be fantastically more exciting than the turgid event at the video at the first link.

And could it possibly be worse than leaving the decision to FIFA?

Could this be how to fix FIFA corruption?  What do you think?

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2 Responses

  1. Personally I don’t have a problem with the expansionist brief of awarding World Cups to countries and continents where the game is developing.

    USA, Japan/South Korea, South Africa, Russia, Qatar or wherever else.

    Just declare it at the start of the process.

    “Hey guys, we want to do something new, stand back England.”

    I could live with that, next up, Australia or China.

    1. Thanks for your comment Kieran. I too would be delighted with a policy of rotating World Cup venues around new markets. The key is that it should be decided in a way which doesn’t throw the game into disrepute; and make the people who run it – some no doubt out of excellent motives – subject to impossible pressures to bend the rules.

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