FIFA, Qatar and Corruption

FIFA is responsible for organizing all of soccer’s major tournaments around the world, bringing in billions of dollars in revenue and having a presence in every corner of the world. Billions look forward to being a part of games, as national pride, honor, bragging rights, and emotions are at steak in each match. It can be considered a religion for many around the world. However, behind this organization that captivates and entertains the young and old, poor and wealthy, and so on, there is tremendous corruption that has ruined its reputation and standing. As a model for the world, this corruption has to be stopped and corrected in order to provide a better example to the world. The earliest reminder of this was the corruption scandal that took place in 2015, in which numerous FIFA executives and officials were arrested, charged, or investigated for corruption, and a hotel with these officials was raided. This corruption also calls into question as to how Qatar won the bidding process to host the 2022 World Cup despite the many obstacles and disadvantages this will bring along with it.

In order to understand the corruption inside FIFA and why no one inside the organization has tried to change how things are, one must first understand the inner mechanisms and the bidding process to select a host for the World Cup. “All countries share equal profits from the World Cup, regardless of size or soccer prowess.” This implies that the U.S. and Germany get as much money as do Liechtenstein, Andorra, and Montserrat. The latter who isn’t even a country. All of these also have the same number of votes within the organization. Therefore, these smaller countries will always vote to keep things the way they are out of fear of losing money and influence, making it harder for any significant change to take place.

According to Rory Jones from the Wall Street Journal, “Since Qatar won its bid 2010, it has faced allegations that it bribed its way to the host’s mantle.” Furthermore, Mohamed bin Hammam has been accused of paying bribes to “win hosting rights”. Hammam has since been banned for life from FIFA due to other corruption charges back in 2011. Jones also questions the process of how FIFA investigated these accusations. Although a report was done to investigate the matter, a report that said that these findings “cleared Qatar of all wrong-doing”, it was never published. This all becomes even more puzzling when one analyzes all the problems that come along with Qatar hosting the World Cup. For example, “The country’s stifling summer heat, strict ban on alcohol and a national team that has never so much as qualified for a World Cup” makes one ask themselves why this would be so. Not only this, but Qatar has strict homophobic laws that will make it hard for homosexual fans to not be persecuted. There are countless other reasons, but the most puzzling one of all is that Qatar’s immense heat might cause the World Cup to be held in the Winter, rather than in the summer. This brings schedule conflicts with other leagues, and can eat away time from the break that players receive. In order for them to have chosen Qatar, they had to know of all these issues.

Evidence of this corruption led the FBI and Swiss agencies to further investigate. According to a report by John Oliver, a major breakthrough took place when Chuck Blazer, a former general secretary of the Concacaf, was arrested for corruption charges. He agreed to become an informant, and with this U.S. was able to produce a “164 page indictment”. Blazer admitted that since the 90s, him and other officials have accepted numerous bribes, and that bribes were a key factor in selecting South Africa in 2010. This report states that Jack Warner, former Vice President of FIFA, bought votes by giving envelopes with “$40,000” to voters, and would not accept rejection. This U.S. indictment is a way for the U.S. to officially charge for “soliciting $150 million in bribes and kickbacks.” These bribes were sometimes straight up hard cash, or sometimes an “Expensive painting at a New York gallery…”. According to BBC, all of this culminated in the raid on a hotel in Zurich and “the arrest of seven FIFA executives”. Furthermore, “the U.S. indicted 14 current and former FIFA officials and associates on charges of ‘rampant, systemic, and deeply rooted’ corruption”. There are many more officials who have since been given guilty please, been found guilty, or are fugitives of the law.

The spotlight has been shining the brightest on one man in particular, and his name is Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA from 1998 to 2015. According to Owen Gibson, “despite the chaos and controversy engulfing FIFA…Sepp Blatter has secured a fifth term in charge.” This reelection took place during the scandal and the raids took place. Part of the reason why he managed to secure victory is due to the voting system that was previously mentioned. Many voters are afraid to lose the power they receive because of Blatter’s policies. At first it seemed as though he was not to step down, however, things changed. According to BBC, pressure mounted do to inside opposition, legal investigations into Blatter, and ultimately due to sponsors threatening to pull out of FIFA. According to Daniel Bentley, “Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa and Budweiser–publicly called for the organization’s president Sepp Blatter to resign on Friday.” Some believe that had it not been for the pressure from sponsors, Blatter might not have stepped down.

This corruption scandal is extremely important and should not be ignored. As BBC states, “The World Cup is the most-watched sporting event in the world… It generates billions of dollars in revenue from corporate sponsors, broadcasting rights and merchandising. These arrests and investigations cast doubt over the transparency and honesty for the process of allocating World Cup tournaments, electing its president, and the administration of funds.” The world’s most popular sport was hurting due to the actions of corrupt individuals. Fixing FIFA will be a long process, and doing so will help fix its image and help restore the most poplar sport in the world.

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